Surviving The Family Christmas

Norman Rockwell’s “Home For Christmas”

Sitting in the Dentist waiting room last week listening to the Receptionists discussing their Christmas plans and whose turn it was to go where, brought to mind a piece of advice my older brother gave me when I got married in November 1983…

“Be careful who you choose to spend your first Christmas with because it will set the precedent for all your future Christmas celebrations”

He spoke from bitter experience having already been locked into the mandatory lunch with his mother-in-law for 10 years at that point. I have friends who complain that they spend hours, days even, each Christmas driving around the country visiting family when all they really want in their hectic, overfilled lives is a few days peace and quiet.

I have told my children that I don’t want to be the “short straw” and they should come for Christmas because they want to, not because they feel it their duty.  If none of them can make it home for Christmas fair enough – just let me know in time to make alternative plans is all I ask. That said, they seem to look forward to a family Christmas and my table is always full come December 25th.

But for some, a family Christmas is something to be endured. The pressure is on for everyone to get along and put petty differences – or even family feuds – to one side. TV is oozing with sugary sweet, sentimental adverts encouraging everyone to share their Christmas with family, friends, neighbours and even strangers! In the commercials  laughter fills the air, old adversaries bury the hatchet and neglectful families mend their ways.

However, in reality living conditions are often stretched to bursting point so add alcohol into the mix and the result can be stressful at best, explosive at worst!

But Christmas can be a very lonely time – too many people spend Christmas alone and miserable. Charities do their best to bring comfort and joy at this time of year but sadly can only scratch the surface. So what is the solution? Do we have too much expectation invested in Christmas? Should we be sacrificing our own wishes for the sake of others or is it a time when we truly can batten down the hatches and shut out the world?