Rescuing Christmas



Is your extended family a bit like mine?

They spend the lead up to Christmas jockeying for position and influence. Arguments abound; to Kris Kringle or no, to host out our place or no, full cooked Christmas meal or simple backyard bbq.

And the arguments are only resolved when the strongest personality lays down the gauntlet: my way or the highway, and the weaker personalities begrudgingly fall into line.

Come the end of December and the family are individually making comments about how the most recent Christmas was unsatisfactory to them and what they want to change next year.

It’s mid November as I write this and Christmas is fast approaching – too fast if you ask me – and the annual Christmas arguments, I know, are beginning to swirl. Already hints of preferred venue, meal and present arrangement have surfaced and so far I’ve let them slide.

There’s a new tradition I want to start this year; a peaceful and respectful approach to Christmas Day. Yes, I know this is a lot to expect, but call me optimistic.

Christmas is one celebration for which we all have an idealised expectation, and one that varies from family to family and person to person. Some want Christmas with all the trappings; the feasting and presents excessive and full of effort. Others prefer a laid back meal with few, if any presents, and the emphasis on relaxing and enjoying each other’s company.

For me, it’s simple. I want a Christmas celebration rich with spiritual significance and a meal, of which I’m not fussed, where family sits alongside each other at the table and celebrates the real blessings that we so often take for granted, including and especially the people around us.

We usually start Christmas Day with Mass attendance and return home at morning tea time to open presents from each other. We do not have presents from Santa here, instead we celebrate the Feast of Saint Nicholas on December 6 in a bid to lower commercial expectations from our children surrounding the day of Christmas itself.

Our presents are many, but simple and generally inexpensive. The idea is that each family member gives a gift to every member of the family, the emphasis is on giving, not receiving. And frankly, the gifts aren’t that exciting. One present might contain one t-shirt, another a book, or a small toy for the younger children, or a packet of hair ties for our daughters. As the children continue to grow I hope to encourage handmade gifts, as they learn to sew and so forth, so that these simple gifts take on another dimension. It is something we have started in the extended family, though at this point I am the primary present maker with some assistance from the children.

After presents, we try to spend some time together as a family before we are due at one house for lunch, and another for dinner – we visit both extended families on Christmas Day – and spend the rest of the day eating, unwrapping presents, travelling and repeating.

Boxing Day is another day of celebration with my husband’s large extended family, but a much more relaxed occasion.

And yet, what should be a day of celebration is marred by tensions and stresses that have been imposed due to individual preferences. Family relations tainted by feelings of resentment and disaffection.

I can’t help but feel that this year some Christmas traditions need to come to an end. This year I’m aiming for detachment, and I’m not sure how successful I’ll be. I have long been the middle man, the negotiator, where each come to me with their opinions and arguments as to why the others approach is wrong.

So far this year, I’ve held them at bay. Which is great for my sanity, because I’m not in the midst of this year’s Christmas war, but it remains to be seen how the cards will fall closer to Christmas.

Like my family, I have particular ideas about how I want to celebrate Christmas and how I’d like my children to celebrate it. But perhaps, I am equally as unbending when it comes to compromising my ideal, my romanticised dream for Christmas, in favour of the common good.

So this year’s menu will contain a good helping of humble pie accompanied by a generous serve of self-reflection.

Because, if God can chose a stable for His Son to come into the world, I can let go of my preferences and celebrate Christmas with good grace.

And I’ll pray that the rest of the clan can do the same thing. Hopefully, that way, we can rescue Christmas this year and start a tradition worth continuing, one ripe with mutual understanding and respect and a focus on what’s really important.


Filed Under: Family LifeFeaturedPersonal Growth

About the Author: Emily is a former ACPA award winning editor and journalist turned stay at home mum and blogger. She lives on a farm in regional NSW with her husband and their five children where she spends the time she should be doing housework reading books and writing posts.

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