Around this time of year, it starts. The slow creep of articles, blog posts and opinion pieces telling you how to have a perfect Christmas. If you do this, and that, and usually buy this, your festive season will be more perfect than you could ever imagine. But perfect is a dangerous myth to buy into – one that can be insidious and destructive. And while there’s nothing wrong with stringing paper chains together by the fireside, planning a feast for your family or dreaming of a white Christmas, the idea of ‘perfect’ can create too much pressure for it to be really enjoyable. So here how to leave ‘perfect’ behind and enjoy a stress-free, cosy, family holiday period instead.
Make the Build-Up Enjoyable
While we may enjoy the actual day itself, many of us find the sheer amount of preparation we need to do makes the lead up to the day fairly stressful. So it’s important to make time to enjoy the weeks before Christmas as well. Do this by letting family members take their fair share of the chores. Everyone should contribute, whether its prepping vegetables or helping to get the decorations up. It may mean that not everything is performed to the usual standards, but that’s a small price to pay for some peace of mind. Give yourself enough time to tackle the big jobs. Book out a morning to dedicate to wrapping gifts – stick on a festive playlist, make yourself a gingerbread latte and enjoy the ritual without the time pressure.
Embrace the Stories
Christmas is a time of folklore, myth and magic – so make the most of it. Enjoy a Christmas movie night with your family or find a seasonal storybook to read with your children. An anthology of poetry can be a really nice choice too. It gradually introduces the theme of the festivities and gives you space to get wrapped up in all the magic. So find some family classics and make it a tradition to revisit them each year.
Use the Power of the Internet
These days, everything from your hard to find gifts to the food for Christmas dinner can be delivered with a few clicks, so consider saving yourself the stress of traipsing around overheated, over-crowded stores – or perhaps choose to buy a few gifts in person, but order others online to reduce your to-do list. If you’re on a budget, this can also be a great way to stick to exactly what you need without being tempted by slick marketing or over-eagers sales assistants. You can also use a site like www.kelkoo.co.uk to compare prices and make sure you’re getting the best deal. It’s also easier to find niche gifts – from something made by an artisan at www.etsy.com for that artistic aunt to stuff you may not know how to shop for, like the selection at Vape Shop for your awkward hipster cousin. A lot of sites also offer gift matching services, where you can tell them a little about who you’re trying to buy for, and they’ll make useful suggestions. Just make sure that you opted for tracked delivery and order as far in advance as you can to avoid any panic about items going missing or not turning up on time.
Do Some Christmas Baking
Part of the celebrations are plenty of sweet treats, so doing some Christmas baking is a great way to bring the family together and make some festive deliciousness. Find some quick and easy Christmas recipes and do a batch of gingerbread, mince pies or some spiced cookies. If you’re feeling really creative, why not try a gingerbread house? They make a beautiful table centrepiece before they’re eaten as well.
Connect With Your Community
Often we get insulated in our own little bubbles but at this time of year, reaching out can not only make a very real, immediate difference to someone’s life, it can also shake off the retail-driven ennui and really help to give Christmas new meaning. There are so many ways to find volunteering opportunities and get involved by giving some of your time. Whether it’s making sure an elderly neighbour has their shopping sorted or donating warm clothes and sleeping bags for the homeless, there are many ways to get your family giving back. This reconnects you to the true spirit of the season and makes you appreciate what you have all the more.
Be A Relaxed Host
It’s easy to fall back into the ‘perfect’ trap when you have guests coming over. You want your home and your food to dazzled people, after all. But the thing that will make them feel the most welcome is having a relaxed, convivial host – and that’s something you can only be if you learn to relax and not obsess over table settings. Every little detail doesn’t have to be right – just make sure people are well fed and have a drink in their hands and the rest will work itself out.
Practice Acceptance With Family
Any family tensions can come bubbling to the surface during the holidays as people are put into proximity that doesn’t normally have to spend extended periods of time together. So try your best to appreciate everyone’s individuality and make a conscious effort to be more tolerant. Give yourself space too – if your mother-in-law always drives you mad, build in time apart by planning in a walk or activity for the rest of the family that you can skip out on to prepare dinner and give yourself some breathing space.
Set a Reasonable Budget
If the finance side of Christmas stresses you out, then make sure you stick to a set budget agreed with your partner in advance. Don’t be tempted into a flurry of spending just to compete or try to prove a point. Christmas memories aren’t made through gifts – they’re made through sharing experiences together, so let go of the urge to overspend. A simple gift chosen carefully or a homemade Christmas gift will often mean more to the recipient anyway – so save the splashing out for the kids, and cut down on what you gift other adults if it’s going to save you worry.