Let the FESTIVITIES begin

The run-up to Christmas and all its festivities seems to begin earlier each year and we can gradually see its message of love and family celebration being lost under the deluge of gift wish lists and the desire to please everyone.

In the USA more people go home for Thanksgiving than for Christmas, and yet not one gift is exchanged. The day is all about sharing a meal with family, reconnecting and spending time together.

Here are some ways to manage the stress of Christmas and make for a happier family time.


A recent survey found that a third of families can take up to three years to repay the expense incurred at Christmas. The pressure to buy great presents, especially for children, can cause a tight family budget to buckle under the strain. A change in circumstances, rise in interest rates, loss of overtime, an unexpected bill can bring a carefully managed edifice tumbling down. Giving children experiences rather than actual presents can be a great way to ease some of the financial burdens.

Interesting results were revealed when retailer Ikea interviewed a group of children and asked them to write two letters, one to Father Christmas containing their usual gift requests and the second to their parents saying what they wished for from them. When asked which letter they would send if allowed only one, every child chose the one to their parents, requesting more time together! Friends are often relieved when a member of their group suggests a £10 price limit per gift, a secret Santa or bran tub, where each person chooses one gift each. Shopping local at craft fairs, markets and in independent shops often means that unique special gifts are sourced which have no obvious price tag.

Christmas cards

Many people have stopped sending cards, preferring perhaps to send ecards and a promise to donate the money to their favourite charity. But Christmas cards may be one of the few times that elderly people receive something other than a circular or bill through their door and they can be a useful way of reminding clients and customers that you’re still around. Don’t discount the role of an attractive, hand-written Christmas card.


Meals and over-indulgence are often a significant part of Christmas celebrations, with long periods spent indoors, often dozing in front of the television, grazing on chocolates and snacks whilst awaiting the next meal. Ease food stress by preparing some ‘ordinary’ meals in advance. A hotpot supper, casserole or meat & potato pie with all the trimmings is often well received after rounds of rich creamy dinners. Or a hot soup with crusty bread can be a very welcome sight after a bracing walk in the park or an energetic game of rounders or football.

Source Free Entertainment

It’s worthwhile to find out in advance what entertainments are on offer locally. Carol services, church timings, local fairs and exhibitions at galleries and museums can all be accessed for little or no cost and provide your guests with a reason to leave the house. Plan walks, treasure hunts or games and let your guests run off some energy in the fresh air. It gives you a break too.


Give everyone an area of responsibility and avoid people hovering. Let children set the table, plan some activities. The mother-in-law may be flattered to be asked for her signature dish, to help prepare vegetables, make the Christmas cake or trifle. Be sure to allow a little ‘me’ time for yourself, time for a bath or a thirty-minute interlude so that you and your partner can spend some time together. Record your favourite television programmes to watch when you’re free.

Alone over Christmas

Not everyone spends Christmas with family or friends and it can a lonely time, especially if it’s the first one on your own. It can appear that everyone’s having a wonderful time, ensconced in the bosom of their families.

A little forethought can make your Christmas Day more pleasant for you. Organise your favourite meals, a small bottle of fizz, plan your viewing, some quality reading. Decide to do the things that you enjoy. Say ‘yes’ if your neighbour invites you in for a festive sherry or alternatively invite them to yours. Remember, the shops are only closed for one day, so you don’t have to amuse yourself for too long. You can then go people-watching over a coffee in the mall and smile in the knowledge that your home is peaceful and calm!

Many charities need additional help over the holidays. Hostels, soup kitchens for the homeless, animal shelters are often short-staffed so you could volunteer and join a team of lovely helpers in doing good work. Share in the season of goodwill with other genuine people. A little planning can make all the difference to your having a happy, stress-free and fulfilling Christmas.


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