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Yes, there are two months to go before the festive season. For some, the silly-season represents the period that can bring a lot of joy and happiness and a time to relax with the family after a long, rushed and busy year. But it is also that time of the year when we can get carried away and overextend in a number of ways. We overspend on gifts, (and credit cards), over commit on social engagements because we do not want to upset anyone, or perhaps because it has become a habit? Perhaps it’s inviting family or agreeing to visit extended family that you would normally choose not to see but agree to because it is the ‘season of giving’. Or is it over-planning the end of year holiday or putting together the perfect festive lunch or dinner?

While there is nothing wrong with connecting with family and friends in a variety of ways, the stress of the combination of all of these can sometimes leave us feeling exhausted, full of resentment and totally out of Christmas cheer by the time the big day arrives. Well, that does not have to happen this year. You can create an authentic holiday experience for you and your family.

Reflect on these points:

  • Looking back on your Christmas experiences as a child, decide if you took on the traditions of your family and evaluate if they make sense to you? Reflect on what a truly meaningful Christmas season would look like for you. Who would be there, who would not be there, what would you do, where would you go, what would make this time that you have waited for the whole year truly special and meaningful? Start the conversation with your family, perhaps with “What are we going to do for Christmas this year?” I advise against rash decisions that you may regret. Considered thought is required, especially if your family is used to churning out the same routine every year. This may also require some bravery and courage. Sometimes people around us do not like change and you don’t want to start a fight that will take until next Christmas to resolve.
  • Do you enjoy cooking Christmas lunch or dinner, or would you honestly prefer to go out, or away? Have you grown up believing that producing the Christmas lunch to beat all lunches is the right thing to do? If so, are those beliefs yours? Are you still trying to prove your worth as a mother, wife, son, husband or partner? Sometimes our families get lazy and it is easier to let the person who usually drives the bus to just plan everything and we execute on request to avoid any issues, and go through the motions because “this is what we do”. Maybe this year you feel like being treated and do not feel like carrying the burden to satisfy others. Start the conversation and it could go something like “I am tired of the same Christmas ritual …what can we do that is different?” Ideas might come from everyone, but you can make a decision about what you would like to do.
  • Do you really need to get your child that tenth stocking-filler? Have you already bought them the one or two gifts that you know they will like? If so, then maybe you can stop there. Are you trying to lessen your guilt about not having spent enough quality time during the year? Whose stocking are you really filling? Gifts are lovely and it is wonderful to receive gifts, but there is a limit to the amount of giving we can do? Reflect on where the lack is in your life, or from whom, and address that with them, and maybe you will find it easier to establish what the ceiling is.

What I am suggesting is that when you look at what your family’s needs, communicate with extended family and/or friends that this year you are trying something different. Alternative arrangements can still be made to spread your Christmas cheer with extended family or friends, but maybe at a different time. Make a commitment to do something different this year by being truer to yourself and your family.

For others, the season might emphasise the loneliness that you feel. Perhaps you are recently divorced or have lost a loved one, broken up with the love of your life, or have bad memories of Christmas from your childhood. Or over the course of your life you have created negative associations with this holiday season.

Christmas can also be a prelude to what may be the worst night of the year – New Year’s Eve! The significance of the ‘the new’ and associated hope that the start of another year brings can weigh heavily. Perhaps you have lost hope and you try and hide from these feelings so that when the holiday is over and you return to work, the whole season becomes a blur that you feel you can pretend never happened. You do not have to have the same experience this year; find support with someone who will understand and help you work out strategies to make the experience less burdensome.

Whether you throw caution to the wind and have the Christmas you have always wanted … may it be the best one yet! If change feels too scary, pick something that would have a minimal impact on others, yet meaningful and significant to you. The confidence you will feel will kick-start a practice of evaluating significance and meaning to you and/or your family. This practice does not have to stop with Christmas, make it a part of your daily existence. Wishing you all the best.

Be true to yourself, live authentically.