Here’s to more Christmas joy and less festive stress!

Janet Lancefield shares her tips for surviving Christmas – with your faith, friendships and family still intact

After a long period of intense activity, Christmas finally comes and we heave a sigh of relief.  “We can’t buy anything else!” we say to each other.  “The shops have closed; we have plenty of food” (usually twice what we actually need).  “Let’s relax and enjoy Christmas.”

On the whole we do – of course we do, seeing friends and relatives, giving and receiving gifts, reading letters and cards, putting up decorations.  It’s lovely to attend, and take part in, special services at church, to learn new Christmas songs and to go carol singing.

But often things can pall in that period between Christmas and New Year, when children are off school, many adults are off work, and families are suddenly in their own homes together. My experiences, over many years, have led me to put together these strategies for common problems:

You miss your routine

Problem: Routine can be good for us and just “relaxing and enjoying Christmas” can make lots of people bored and irritable.
TIP: Try to keep some order in your Christmas holiday.  Set your alarm clock, maybe for half an hour or so later than usual, but still set it and give the days at least a rough purpose and plan. 

You’re fed up with eating and entertaining

Problem: You can have too much of a good thing and it’s wise to intersperse entertaining, or being entertained, to a meal or mince pies with other activities.
TIP: Take a trip out. The seaside is lovely in winter, so is the countryside.  Parks too are good, especially if there are animals to feed.  They are hungrier and more alert in colder weather, so much more interesting to see.

It’s all too familiar

Problem: The Christmas stories are so well known that they can simply wash over us and leave us unmoved.
TIP: Read them in a Bible translation you’ve never used before or even in a foreign language if you have some knowledge of one. Though I am not a fluent Spanish speaker, my Nuevo Testamento comes into its own when reading over-familiar parts of Scripture. It’s surprising what we can learn when things are presented in a new way or we have to struggle to understand a passage.
You can’t stand the mess

Problem: Christmas can be a messy time. There’s so much paper and packaging to dispose of, so many people in your home (even if it’s only you,  your husband and children there for much longer periods than usual), so many new presents lying around to be admired, read or played with . . .
TIP: Do any repairs or tidying in the home straight away.  Sewing on a button, rehooking a sagging curtain edge, or a quick vacuum takes little time and keeps the general mess of Christmas under control.  Don’t wait till it’s awful and driving you crazy; do the little jobs as they arise.  You’ll feel much better.

You need time alone

Problem: You’re used to some time alone and it’s hard to come by over the holiday season
TIP: Why not leave your children and husband at home with the latest DVD, Nintendo DS or Wii and go for a walk to your local shops for a bag of apples or a newspaper? Or, wash up with the kitchen door firmly closed, refusing offers of help by saying there’s something you want to listen to on the radio while you do it.  They won’t check up on whether you’ve got it on or not – don’t worry.

Christmas has lost its sparkle
Problem: Amid all the preparations, you’ve forgotten what Christmas is really all about
TIP: Spend some time alone with Jesus each day (even five minutes will do).  Commit your plans, your family and your visitors to him.  To quote that neat little saying, “He is the reason for the season,” and the one who can help you get through it with your faith, friends and family not only intact but enhanced and refreshed.

And one thing you must never do!

If the pressure gets too much – the noise, the mess, the half-eaten turkey carcass and Christmas cake cluttering up your kitchen, the sheer tiredness due to all the things you frantically did before Christmas, the constant determined assertions to visitors that you “are having a good Christmas, thank you” – Don’t take it out on your husband!  It makes for a bad atmosphere in the house and upsets your children.  You don’t want them to remember Christmas as the time Mummy and Daddy had rows.  Sadly, I don’t have an answer as to how you can avoid this one, other than going to the top of a hill and screaming, which can be impractical.  Any suggestions gratefully received!

May God grant you a truly Happy Christmas.