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Oh No Here comes Christmas!

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Lesley McCall.

December 2019

Oh No! Here comes Christmas

We all know what business thinks Christmas is all about, the opportunity to sell useless stuff to as many of us as possible.

Suddenly everything is a ‘wonderful Christmas gift for the one you love’ from overpriced novelty plastic to a power saw. Children are eagerly awaiting the coke truck (REALLY ???) because that’s apparently what Christmas is all about just like that stupid ad where an overly glamorous women is nostalgic about the ‘caramel shop’ they visited as a child (what on earth is a caramel shop , have you ever seen one ? ). Everywhere we look, it’s about where we are going to spend our money and what on. As soon as the kids are back to school after summer, we are bombarded with cheesy carols and Christmas pudding- all this before our tans have even faded.

The real face of Christmas

You may gather that I’m not a great fan – more Scrooge than Elf.

However, what I object to is how far away we are from what we tell ourselves Christmas is all about – love, kindness and family. How often do those adverts with everyone having massive fun, laughing, playing board games and charades and children opening their presents with cries of joy actually come true? How often do we feel a failure because we rushed out at the last minute and bought expensive rubbish in desperation? How often is the only nice part of Christmas watching the kids open their presents and it goes rapidly downhill from there? By lunchtime it can degenerate into broken toys, battles over who gets the only set of batteries, in-laws disapproving faces because it’s not done ‘right’ or the kids weren’t allowed to do that in ‘my time’ and all that work on preparing the best ever Christmas lunch wasted.

Kind adverts?

Have you noticed which adverts are the most popular? The ones where kindness is involved – John Lewis seems to get it right every year (apart from the creepy old man on the moon spying on a young girl …eww how the hell did that ever get past the common sense police?). Kindness, the little boy counting down the days until he could give his parents his present, the little animals being kind to the cuddly bear, this year is just as good (watch it with tissues). The tag line is ‘Show them you care ‘– even though it’s obviously crass commercialism, actually it’s got it right. Because this is what Christmas should be about, and it is what will actually make us happy. Not what we get but the kindness behind it.

Practice RAK’s at Christmas

I have talked before about Random acts of kindness and how they can give you happiness through the year if you weave them into your life , but Christmas is a particularly good time to practice this because it is a time where things can go spectacularly wrong. Why does this time of year bring out the worst in us? Because when people are stressed and anxious, they are not always kind and they tend to not notice other people’s problems when they are so wrapped up in their own. I always say that happy people don’t need to be unkind – they simply get on with their lives and don’t worry about what other people are doing. Bullies bully to make themselves feel better not necessarily to hurt other people. Christmas can make everyone feel that they are failures if they can’t live up to expectations, especially the insecure amongst us. There is nothing better than watching television full of happy people celebrating Christmas with their loving partners, perfect 2.4 children and supportive extended family to make you want to drink the cooking sherry (and the brandy meant for the Christmas pudding). Social media makes it worse! Facebook is full of perfect diners and happy relatives (even if the only reason they are happy is because they are slaughtered and nasty Uncle Jim’s been put to bed). No room for those of us who are only happy because it’s all over and the next Christmas is a year away.

Elevate your Christmas Spirit

So, if you don’t like the way your Christmas usually is, then make changes.

Elevate the Christmas spirit – make people happy with kindness.

Here are some ideas of how to do that:

Let someone win if it means that much to them. The irritating relative who turns everything into a competition. They must win at the cost of presents/board games/playing the victim/the most expensive car/the best child etc. Let them win. Stand back, smile and congratulate them. It makes them happy, and what is to be gained by fighting? You won’t win unless you are prepared to play them at their own game in which case, I know some lovely therapists.

Ignore the ‘should do’ statements and change them to ‘want to’. Make the dinner special if you want to see the happiness on your loved ones’ faces – not because you want to post a picture online. You have a choice.

Be the guest you would want to have in your home. Don’t be jealous of how impressive the house/food is, praise it all. It doesn’t matter if they cooked it or bought it, say thank you. Don’t look for fault no matter what your history with that relative is – be grateful and show it.

I know this all sounds a bit too saintly for words, and you might not be surprised to hear that I often struggle to follow my advice, but you would be amazed at how nice it is to be the better person – to be kind. You might also be amazed at how other people react to you when you are kind – they respond less defensively and follow your lead. Halos all round!

It’s not about the money!!!!

There is so much you could give that doesn’t cost money (or much money). Use your imagination!

Give vouchers (gardening/taking them out for tea/promises to babysit etc.) I used to put vouchers in my kids’ stockings with small presents, they would be something like ‘A get out of trouble just this once’ or ‘you can have dessert first for one meal’ etc. Set a date at Christmas of when the vouchers will be redeemed. Pick something that is kind and requires a bit of effort. You can buy a spa day for a new mother but put a babysitting voucher with it. A father could give his wife a day off doing nothing. An elderly relative would probably appreciate an afternoon out more than a scarf.

The true spirit of Christmas

What is the true spirit of Christmas? Surely, it’s about making someone you care about happy, not just by buying them something but by putting in the thought, the effort, the kindness. Christmas started with a baby born into poverty but safe and warm because an innkeeper was kind. It doesn’t matter what you believe celebrate Christmas with kindness, surely that is what Christmas is all about.