How to deal with your nearest and dearest this Christmas

Are you spending the Christmas holidays with your nearest and dearest? Here are some tips for making it through unscathed (image source: 20th Century Fox).

By Rebecca Gaitaneris

Are you looking forward to seeing your family on Christmas, or dreading it?

Christmas is around the corner, and for many people that means booze, backyard cricket and balmy weather. 

Though for other people, Christmas means stress, anxiety and arguments. 

Some studies even suggest that festive stress can give you a literal heart attack.

No family is perfect, and when it comes to Christmas, it can sometimes bring out the worst in people, even among the most functional and happy families. 

You might be thinking, ‘it’s Christmas, gifts to give and receive, eating and drinking as much as you like, spending time with friends and family – What’s not to like about Christmas?’

Well, for some quite a lot. 

Patience is usually stretched to the absolute max during the festive season. 

From difficult in-laws to arguing siblings, Christmas can be a battlefield and strategies are extremely useful.

Christmas for me is a special time of year. 

It’s a time when I like to quote one of my favourite fellow fusion-holiday celebrators, The O.C.’s Seth Cohen: “Allow me to introduce you to a little something that I like to call Chrismukkah.” 

Chrismukkah was invented in the teen drama series to combine both Christmas and Hanukkah. 

You may be wondering what Chrismukkah has to do with me? Well, my dad is of Greek heritage and my mum is of English, Irish and Scottish heritage, making my Christmas a celebration of joint cultures.

Through these celebrations, I’d like to think I’ve picked up a few tricks on dealing with relatives along the way. 

Instead of preparing for battle this Christmas, perhaps settle on some strategies so that this year’s Christmas with the relatives is more pleasant. 

So, here are some sanity-saving strategies for dealing with relatives on Christmas day–think of it as my early gift to you. 

Adjust your mindset

In the lead up to Christmas day, you may start to dread the day– snap out of it! If you anticipate what is to come, it will only make you stress more. 

Instead of worrying about it, think of all the joy and excitement the day will bring. 

Christmas is one day out of 365. You aren’t obligated to do anything over the Christmas period. 

Truth be told, without family, some of us would be lost this time of year. 

Try to appreciate the good qualities each one of them brings to the family and enjoy the dynamics of your gathering– yes, even if your uncle finds a way to complain about absolutely everything. 

Have realistic expectations 

As nice as it would be for that one family member not to criticise everything, they most likely will. Every family has one. 

This one person, without fail, will find the tiniest thing to criticise, despite not contributing anything to family lunch.

There’s no reason to expect anything different this year. 

Similarly, I’m not sure if it happens in every family, but in my family, it seems the older you are, the smaller the pile of the presents you get. 

It doesn’t get any easier watching my younger cousins unwrap their massive pile of gifts, while I settle for my deodorant, leaving me to question whether my grandparents are suggesting I smell. 

I’ve just learnt to grin and accept my gifts graciously.

Beware the dreaded questions

Prepare in advance for those tedious questions. It happens every year, so don’t expect anything different.

Have a witty response prepared for when your grandfather asks why “a beautiful girl like you is still single?”, or “any new friends?”. 

Perhaps reply with something along the lines of, “I’m waiting for Mr Wrong.”

Unfortunately, no matter how much you try and steer the conversation in another direction, someone will tell you about their latest colourful opinion regarding politics.

This is why choosing your seat at the table is so important– get stuck in a seat near them and you’re in for a long ride.

Don’t drink too much

This may seem unmerry since your main urge is to knock back a few glasses of wine or dip into a collection of scotch before noon. 

Like most things, moderation is key. 

It’s okay to be a little bit tipsy on Christmas, but drinking to excess often brings out the worst in people and can even make situations worse. 

If and when you hit the point of intoxication, you’ll likely say or do something that could be embarrassing and that will become the topic of discussion for future family gatherings.

Sure, you may not be able to control how much other people drink, but limiting your consumption can ensure you have a cool head if things do turn ugly. 

We’ve all seen it. Every family has that one person who drinks too much and ends up on the kitchen floor, or in my family, they end up locking the pug in the kitchen bin (though to my pug’s delight eating out of the bin was more like heaven).

Manners make a difference:

Sure, the Greeks excel in hospitality and dominate at clearing plates; however manners, social graces, and table etiquette don’t always go hand in hand with the culture. 

This is where having a ‘blended’ family Christmas is interesting. 

When sitting down with my mum’s side of the family for Christmas lunch, it’s the table manners that rule supreme. 

Expressing gratitude and appreciation towards relatives can go along way during the festive season. 

Manners will help make the environment more jovial.

Remember, it’s only one day

Each family has their own quirks. 

Maybe it’s the way your uncle always complains about trivial things. 

Or perhaps it’s how your grandfather covers his food in a cloud of salt. 

Or could it be the way one of your relatives can’t have a conversation without droning on about themselves?

At the end of the day, it’s important not to let the festive fluff get to you– after all it’s only one day of the year and you can always improve next Christmas. 

With some useful strategies put to good use, it’s only 24 hours– you’ve got this. 

If you feel overwhelmed this Christmas, help is available. Get in touch with Beyond Blue 1300 22 4636 or Lifeline 13 11 14 for immediate crisis support. 

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