NZ Woman's Weekly

Helpful tips for a stress-free Christmas Day

Helpful tips for a stress-free Christmas Day

Ah, Christmas. Piles of beautifully wrapped presents, mounds of delicious food and happy families, all enjoying each other’s company… Yeah right. For many families there’s so much stress that it is not a merry time of year at all. Families don’t always get on, and when you add the financial and social pressures that invariably come with the occasion, then you can end up with tantrums and tears – and that’s just the grown-ups. But there are things you can do to get through the day with as little stress as possible.

  • If you’re hosting Christmas at your house, don’t feel like all the festivities are your sole responsibility – delegate as much as you can. Make sure you ask everyone who is coming to bring food and sort out who brings what. Prepare as much food as possible beforehand so you don’t spend half the day in the kitchen.
  • Take it easy on the alcohol. In some families it’s a tradition to start drinking early, for example with fizz at brunch, and by the time afternoon rolls around things can start getting messy. Have plenty of non-alcoholic options available for yourself and others.
  • If there are members of your family who don’t get on, try to arrange the day so they aren’t in the same place at the same time. Sometimes inviting non-family members over – such as neighbours – can help diffuse tension. Stroppy relatives may be less inclined to cause a scene if there are unfamiliar faces there.
  • Expect kids to be more trying than normal. Young ones will be overexcited and likely to be cranky from not sleeping well. Teenagers may be more interested in texting their friends than chatting to grandma. Let your kids know what behaviour is acceptable but keep your expectations fairly low!
  • Don’t expect everything to run smoothly. People will arrive late, food won’t turn out as you hoped, presents will be a disappointment. Shrug things off instead of fretting about it. Life is not perfect and not everything will run to plan. Don’t let it get to you.
  • If relationships within your family have been strained, don’t expect things to be magically better just because it is Christmas. In fact there’s a good chance the strain of the day will make things worse. Be civil and save hashing things out for another time.
  • Don’t get wound up if your house ends up a mess. Packaging strewn everywhere is a part of the day.
  • Have games to play or activities to do once presents have been opened and food has been eaten. These can be a lot of fun and lighten the mood. Outdoor games such as pétanque or cricket are good if the weather stays nice, while board games or charades will keep people occupied indoors.
  • Decide who will be exchanging gifts – this will save disappointment if you’ve bought gifts for someone who doesn’t reciprocate. If necessary set price limits – if one person is spending more money than others this can lead to resentment.
  • If you have to travel to see family members on Christmas Day work out ways of making this easier, so you don’t spend a large chunk of the day sitting in a car. Do you have to see everyone on December 25? You could see some on Christmas Eve and others on Boxing Day.
  • If you are driving to different relatives try to be on time. They’re not going to be too happy if Christmas dinner goes cold because you’re still at your in-laws playing on the Wii.
  • Accept that for some people, Christmas is a very difficult time, especially as it can be a reminder of people they have lost. Be understanding if they are not putting on a bright face.
  • Go easy on spending where you can. Knowing you’ve blown your budget can cast a shadow over Christmas Day. Avoid this next year by buying in sales throughout the year or contributing to a Christmas club.
  • Try to take a break whenever you can and make sure you sit down to just enjoy the day and the people you are spending it with. And have a very Merry Christmas!
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