28th November 2018
Well, we've got to that special season where we enter into a state of mind that is so different to any other time of year. There's the ramped up social programme (if you're lucky), ramped up expenditure and even higher expectations on 40+ women to deliver an incredible Christmas for your families. It's a tough one.
I've spoken to many different people about how they approach Christmas, from Chief Executives to nurses, Bank Managers to receptionists, all women, and the results are quite wide reaching. Some of us love it, some of us hate it. Some of us revel in every aspect, some of us see it as burden to be borne with immense fortitude. There are no rights or wrongs, everyone's different.
The problem I have with Christmas is that it heightens everything. Inequalities in gifts, missing members of the family, loneliness, social exclusion and more. Of course, it can be a time of immense happiness as well, but for many people it's a laser beam on their own challenges. it's just one day yet the cuts can be razor sharp.
I'm suggesting that this year, we have a collective plan of action to bring it back to what it actually should be, a day of peace, reflection and quiet, where we thank our lucky stars to have made it through another year in one piece. The fantastic benefits of this would be that the gifts become less important (and so hopefully less expensive on your purse), the big meal event is less about over indulgence and more about the company. In short, I think I'm suggesting we start paring it back a bit.
One year, we were very, very poor, with two young kids and were invited around to a friend's house for Christmas Day lunch. It was lovely, really good fun until they opened their presents. We'd done ours earlier at home, but every family has its own traditions and theirs was to do so after lunch. My husband and I had agreed no gifts to each other (or it was something very small, I forget now) as many couples do. However, as the wife of the couple started opening hers I wanted to cry. She got everything. A Mulberry handbag, perfume, new boots, new winter coat, new this, new that. I was utterly jealous because I wanted those things and that expectation is what made me miserable and I should have known better. Of course, it wasn't our friend's fault at all, but it cut.
So this year, let's start moving Christmas into being a wonderful, but less intense event. Let's start moving it to be a lovely day, but not a military campaign that it seems to become for so many.
This year, I'm trying something different and here's my checklist:
1. I'm going to the lessons and carols at our church. Am I particularly religious? No, but Christmas is exactly that, a "mass" for Christ. Let's think about why we actually celebrate the day
2. I've stripped back the food. I'm not going to buy for two weeks, I'm buying for one day, as the leftovers will see us through the following day and then the Co Op's open again so what's the panic?
3. Gifts - I've cut back on these. Most of you will know what I mean when I say that the height and width of the "pile" was very important to me when my sons were younger. That was dumb of me. Instead, it's time they learnt to be grateful for what we do all year round and let's keep it simple at Christmas.
4. Fresh air - I'm definitely taking a break on Christmas morning to walk the dog without any pressure to cook. I realise this won't work for all of us, but find a moment for yourself...somehow.
Why not pick a few things that you would really love to change about this day and give them a go? Let me know what you decide to do as I'd love to know.
Christmas is a time of peace, wonder against the backdrop of that original story. Strip it back and I bet your friends will be in awe of how calm, chilled and relaxed you are . Now doesn't that sound like a better Christmas this year?