At this present moment in time with problems in the world economy, many people feel like the expense of Christmas is the last thing they need.
But it doesn’t have to be expensive, or stressful at all.
Doesn’t Everybody Love Christmas?
I always assumed everybody loved Christmas: the cards, the food, the presents, being with the family. Until I heard a radio show a few weeks ago saying that November, December and January are the most difficult months for people who suffer from depression because of the lack of light and, well … Christmas.
The UK’s leading charity for depression, Depression Alliance, reports that the number of help line calls they receive goes up by 40% over the festive season, so if you’re depressed at the prospect of Christmas you’re not alone.
Often, it’s because we set the wrong expectations
There might be some real underlying causes which when connected with the time of year can exaggerate any negative feelings: a death, an illness, a divorce, job loss, … many people would find it hard to enjoy Christmas if they have just lost their job. If it’s your case and you are feeling depressed, do consider seeking the help of a counsellor or confide in a close friend.
Setting High Expectations: Christmas Is Going To Be Perfect
In this article, I want to talk about those who feel sad or depressed because they want Christmas to be perfect and, let’s face it, it doesn’t always happen that way…
- The food might not turn out to be cooked to perfection, exactly as planned.
- The presents you’ve spent so much time and money on might not be the right ones.
- You may be stressed trying to choose presents for a relative who is always very difficult to buy for.
- Maybe you’re worried about what someone will think of your choice of present so you just decide to spend a bit extra to make sure you impress them, just in case.
- With all the good intentions in the world, staying a whole day with family and relatives you rarely see is not always the most relaxing situation.
Consequently, people fight. According to a survey, the average family will have their first fight at 9:58am on Christmas day, just 2 hours after getting up!
Set ‘Good’ Expectations for Christmas
Why do we build so many expectations on one single day! That, surely, is a recipe for disapointment. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that all expectations are bad. The key is to set GOOD expectations.
1- Don’t set expectations on your friends and relatives.
If you do often have arguments with friends and relatives at Christmas time, understand that it can actually be a stressful time but you don’t want it to be, so just let it pass. Forgive quickly and reassure friends and loved ones who may be trying too hard to make everything perfect.
2- Have realistic expectations for:
- how good your house decorations should look – if you enjoy making a really special effort every year and co-ordinating every little thing, then go for it!! If decorating worries you and becomes a chore, just let it go – decorate for the pleasure of it and celebrate the missing baubles instead of worrying about them.
- how good the food should taste – you’re going to enjoy the meal no matter what, enjoy cooking it, enjoy eating it (it doesn’t have to be perfect) and most of all enjoy the company you have whilst you’re eating it!
- how expensive the presents should be – remember, it’s the thought that counts, whatever you do, don’t spend above your means.
- how beautiful the present wrapping should look – as above with the decorating. If you actually enjoy wrapping and perfect ribbons, then that’s great and you should enjoy it as part of Christmas. If you can’t bring yourself to enjoy wrapping presents no matter what you do, then wrap them simply and don’t stress about the wrapping needing to be perfect (it is probably going to get ripped to pieces very quickly anyway).
- how elated you and your family should be – just focus on being relaxed and happy to be with loved ones. Celebrate your differences 😉 and understand that not everyone can be happy from 8am to 11pm on Christmas day!
- how many parties you can attend (you don’t have to visit all your relatives and friends at every Christmas, just do what you can)
The commercial image of an incredibly happy family in a perfectly looking house is just that … a commercial image.
Think celebration and enjoying being together with loved ones rather than consumerism and shiny presents.
3- Reassure loved ones
If you know that friends or family tend to get stressed or find it tough to afford Christmas, then reassure them as early as possible and do so in a gentle way. You know them best but perhaps it would be worth finding a way to let them know that you’re not expecting much or anything at all.
We’ve done this this year between the adults in the family by agreeing that the main focus should be on the children. Otherwise thoughtfully chosen presents you can consume (ideally together) which don’t cost a lot of money can make for a more enjoyable celebration on the day (this can avoid disappointment, duplicates and wrong sized clothes).
4 – Enjoy Your Own Family Traditions
Being a half French, half English family, we have lots of traditions between the two cultures that we enjoy plus some of our own. The children love these little traditions including the christmas decorations, putting up the christmas tree, stockings, letters to santa, 13 desserts on Christmas eve, leaving a carrot for rudolph and a drink for santa by the chimney, leaving presents under the tree, Christmas crackers, the advent calendar, Christmas carols, getting up ridiculously early on Christmas morning, mince pies, Christmas cake … I could go on and on (you’d be surprised).
These are the things to enjoy. If you can enjoy the simplest and most beautiful things at Christmas and make plenty of room for family and friends, then the rest will take care of itself and you’ll have a great Christmas!!