At this time of year we’re often with those we’ve known longest – our partners, families and friends – and yet can also be right out of our comfort zone. Unfamiliar places, beds, habits and food. Or a sudden influx of in-laws requiring bed and board. Stir in a few unrealistic expectations of the perfect family gathering and you have a recipe for stress, overwhelm and upset, instead of joy and goodwill. How to survive it all and come out smiling? Try these tips.
Have a plan. Don’t try to do everything yourself – including drawing up the plan. If you’re responsible for the Big Feast, this article by Sainsbury’s might help you plan. Organising a bigger event? Try BBC Good Food’s guide for tips, including how to organise your staff.
Listen to your elders. Family gatherings can be an all too rare opportunity to catch up with older members of your tribe. To be blunt, they may not have many such gatherings left, so make up for lost time and sit with them a while. I really miss my grandmothers’ tales about my parents as kids, and what Christmas was like for them as children. Debretts has a very considerate guide to hosting the family at Christmas, which includes these wise words, “Never presume that other people will find the spectacle of your over-excited children as captivating as you do”, and, “Don’t inflict agonisingly long meals on small children”.
Allocate roles to the crew. Cook? Dessert chef? Present wrapper? Cocktail maker? Cleaner? DJ? Quizmaster? If you’re the host, you can call the shots on this –identify what tasks need to be done and decide who can do them. If you’re a guest, offer specific help such as organising drinks – that way it’s easier for your host to accept. Heaps of different tips can be found here on Pinterest.
Don’t just sit there. Give those endorphins a boost and get moving. This year I’ll be missing Mum’s mandatory Christmas Day walk. One year this meant being sandblasted on a windy beach, another time it was an ambitious hill climb. Small people particularly need to get outdoors and let off steam as a break from sitting, screens and sugar.
Do it differently. One branch of my family opts out of the traditional feast at home and goes to their local Chinese restaurant for a delicious lunch, cooked and cleared by people happy to earn the money.
Find a quiet zone. Not everyone wants to join in with noisy games or watch the same seasonal movies. If that’s you and you’re seeking sanctuary, you’ll be lucky to find anywhere quiet in the typical family home at Christmas. It may be a case of simply getting outside for a walk. What if you’re the host? Well, at least you (hopefully) have the comfort of your own bedroom, and will be excused for long enough to take a well-earned nap.
The Daily Mirror has a day-by-day countdown of things to do.
You may also find this blog post useful: 5 festive party survival tips.
Dawn is the author of ‘How to be Zoomly at work’, available on Amazon.