Do you enjoy Christmas? It can be such a wonderful time, when many take time out from work to be with family and friends. It’s a time for children, with the magic of Santa Claus such a huge event in their year. It’s a time of year when relationships are moved onto a new footing; engagements, weddings, old hurts forgiven and bridges built.
Or are you one of the many for whom the holidays is a chore rather than a pleasure? Do you fix that cheerful smile on your face, and exchange Christmas greetings through gritted teeth? Do you grumble your way through the festivities, swearing not to do it again?
For some, a sort of trance-like fog descends over the Christmas holidays in which we can engage in activities we profess to hate, and yet each year do the same thing. Cards, presents, trees, food, drink, decorations, carols; the list is endless.
And I wonder if there’s any room for just not liking Christmas? After all, behind the sparkle and tinsel there may be another story lurking.
For some people it can be a painful time, evoking memories of Christmas past, shared with loved ones who are no longer around. For others, focussing as it does on family and friends, it can be a time that highlights their loneliness. For those who may be struggling financially, Christmas can be a fearful time, when the frenzy of spending can reinforce the lack that they are experiencing. For parents it can be a difficult time too, with worries about making it a special time for the little ones, and fears that they may be disappointed.
Is it the nature of Christmas itself that ‘s the problem, or is the answer a bit closer to home?
There is so much advice about how to make the most of the season, from food to presents and decorations. And it’s all directed towards doing it better. The message seems to be, if you’re not enjoying this, you must be doing it wrong.
According to the girls at Inner Mean Girl Reform School, there are five ways our inner mean girl (or boy) becomes the Grinch that stole Christmas. We over commit, over do, over spend, over indulge, and over focus (on the negatives) all in the cause of the holiday spirit. We tell ourselves that it has to be done a certain way, because that’s the way it is always done, has always been done, and has to be done. We criticise ourselves for not doing it perfectly, for not doing enough, for letting down the side. It’s as if anything less than 100% will put us into the Scrooge bracket.
Their solution is to be honest about what makes us happy and live from that place, rather than from what we think others might expect of us. If the glitz and the partying rocks your boat, then go for it. But if it leaves you with a Christmas hangover of regret and exhaustion, then maybe it’s time to rethink. After all, it’s your Christmas too.
Jude Fay is a psychotherapist at AnneLeigh Counselling and Psychotherapy, Celbridge and Naas, Co Kildare, Ireland