It is less than 3 weeks until Christmas and there is no doubt that it is one of the most stressful times of the year. This is partly due to the pressure we put on ourselves as a response to the media and advertising hype that invades our lives.
The images and expectations are thrown at us every day but reach a crescendo at this time of the year. Perfect gifts, on-trend decorating, mountains of food and joyous relationships are portrayed in all types of media. We have been exposed to these expectations for our whole lives so we continue to burden ourselves with our quest for the ‘perfect’ Christmas.
Then there are traditions. The definition of this innocuous little word is: “the transmission of customs or beliefs from generation to generation, or the fact of being passed on in this way” Many families have traditions around Christmas and this can be a lovely touchpoint, especially for children. It could be putting out reindeer food on Christmas Eve, hanging stockings on the end of your bed, going to Midnight Mass, viewing Christmas lights in your suburb or putting up the Christmas tree on a certain date. All of these and many other little things are what can make Christmas special for your family.
The problem with traditions is that they can actually be a cover for a guilt trip. You know the scenario – “but we always have hot turkey lunch” – when you would really rather be playing cricket at the beach and eating a burger from the deli across the road. That might be a bit extreme but it is an example of the sort of situations that arise every year in many families.
Expectations need to be modified as children grow and families take on different forms. What is a fun activity for a 5 and 8 year old might be utterly tiresome for those same children 10 years later. Trying to force them to conform to ‘traditions’ that you set up will only drive them away.
The addition of partners adds a whole new dimension as they have their own family and that needs to be respected, too. In time there will be grandchildren and the whole cycle begins again.
The end result of striving for the perfect Christmas is generally less than perfect and can be downright horrible so perhaps it is time to reassess. Set realistic goals, enjoy the moment and don’t set yourself responsible for the behaviour and happiness of others – that is their responsibility.
What is your experience? Do you have traditions? Are you prepared to let things go as circumstances change?