Christmas to New Year with stress…

Lots of people talk about the joy of being with family over the Christmas break, and if you have a lovely, warm, loving family, who you see eye to eye with, I’m sure that can be true. But let’s be honest, there is tension in most people’s families, and some families seem to see Christmas as an opportunity for outright war.

If your family isn’t at peace with itself, the extra stress of expectations can be tinder to any potential argument. Those expectations don’t even have to be unrealistic, they just have to not mesh perfectly with what actually happens.

We also have a culture that is obsessed with blame rather than understanding. Blame is a destructive thing, self awareness, as well as taking responsibility for one’s own actions and the consequences of those actions are the positive way of approaching things when they go wrong. Being able to say “it was me and I apologise” is just about the healthiest and most grown up thing you can do, if it’s true.

Being aware that none of us is perfect is a really good starting point I find, especially when spending time with other people who you are not going to be able to escape from for a while.

We tend not to have to spend extended time with other people, so we have lost many of the skills our forebears developed through communal living. I can remember days before central heating and computers, when we spent most of our winters in the living room together trying not to fall out. It was there that we learnt the skill of keeping our mouths shut.

So, if your family is one of those dreadful toxic experiences, give yourself permission to avoid them. Christmas alone can be a joyous, peaceful, fun experience. If you work at making it that way. And many people who have families will envy you the opportunity to be peaceful.

Also bear in mind that whilst you may enjoy the hurly burly of your family interactions not every member of your family will necessarily agree with you. It may seem like gentle teasing from where you are, but the person being teased may find it to be far more challenging and unpleasant than that.

Be gentle to those around you when you know they are under pressure. They may lash out, but it probably has nothing to do with you. Lots happens in other peoples lives that we will never know about, these things are often in their minds when they are unhappy or under pressure.

Christmas and the new year put us under huge pressure, we need the people who care about us to be just a bit more understanding of our difficulties.

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The Real Meaning Of Christmas

Now, I’m not a Christian, so I don’t celebrate the birth of Christ. I’m not a religious person at all, I’m an Atheist. I spent years and years trying to believe and failing, so I hedged my bets and called myself Agnostic, then I thought, I have to come out of the closet and declare myself what I know I am. I am an Atheist.

I’ve had conversations with people who think that if you don’t have God (whatever that means to you) in your life then you can have no moral standards. I have to say that my moral beliefs have been with me pretty much through out my life. I also have to admit that I haven’t always managed to maintain my own standards and I have spent some considerable time beating myself up because of it.

Eventually I learned to forgive myself in the same way as I would have forgiven someone else. It took a lot of doing, and there are one or two things I still struggle with.

So for me Christmas is not a religious experience. Neither is it a consumerist experience. I never have had much money, and I never have bought into buying people’s love. I don’t want anyone whose love can be bought, and anyway I don’t believe “real” love can be bought.

My pleasure comes from seeing my friends and family enjoying themselves, I certainly don’t enjoy stress and rows. So for me the Yuletide celebrations are about people being happy and relaxed. I’m very fortunate in not having to cook a Christmas dinner, so I’m spared that stress. I’m very fortunate in having a family that has realistic expectations both of presents and behaviour.

There is no one I have to spend time with who is an belligerent drunk. No one who expects the world to revolve around them and then gets stroppy because it doesn’t. No one who thinks they should have a better present than…

You get the picture. I’m a very lucky person. I love Christmas (whatever name you choose to give it). It’s warm and cosy and pleasant, just a bit too much food, a little too much drink, quite a lot of laughter, and lots of love.

What more could you ask for for Christmas?