1. Have low expectations. This year is particularly brilliant for that, as we can all agree that it is meant to be the most depressing Christmas that most of us remember. Having high expectations is one of the biggest pitfalls of Christmas every year though.
2. Do not just love your family. Has anyone ever known of any family where there is no conflict, rivalry, fallouts, envy, grief? Yet, on Christmas day we are all supposed to remember how much we love each other, which unsurprisingly often has the opposite effect.
3. Do not just love your neighbour. One of the positive side effects of this year has been the feeling of community and ‘being in it together’ that the first lockdown created. Unfortunately, the honeymoon is now over and societies globally are ridden by division and polarisation. If we can all agree to disagree, it may make for a more cheerful (and loving!) Christmas.
4. Do not just love your partner. Has anyone tried to cook a turkey or goose of nut roast with all the trimmings for a meal that is supposed to be the most special of the year in a hot kitchen alongside a partner? Or to cook it alone while their partner is watching TV or reading the paper? Either situation could be the perfect set up for murder. So, again, low expectations can make a significant difference on how the day goes for couples.
5. Do not try to be cheerful. There are few notions as oppressive as ‘positive thinking’ and an almost certain strategy for having the opposite effect. Christmas is as much about losses, who is not there, who has gone from our lives, who we are missing, as it is about who is there. At best, it is a play between light and dark.
6. Do exercise. Christmas was originally a paganist tradition aiming to lighten up the darkest time of the year. Yet, the family rituals for celebrating Christmas in the Western world can easily keep us indoors during all daylight hours. Yet, going out in the fresh air for a walk or run and getting some sunlight (if any) can do wonders for our mood.
7. Do have a laugh. One of my most memorable Christmas days was when the oversized goose we were trying to cook would not fit in the oven and it eventually caught fire with flames rising over the cooker. Though this was not funny at all, the emergency operation we set off on the spot as well as evacuating the house from any minors made for much laughter over the Christmas dinner as well as banter about the smoky flavour of the bird.
8. Do have some family bonding time. Christmas is good for honouring who is there. Families come in many shapes and forms and they can change under unexpected circumstances such as this year. Whoever you find yourself spending Christmas with, treat them as family and after the tension of the festivities dies away, try to have some bonding time, even if that means being snuggled up in front of the TV.
9. Do take a bath or a nap. Christmas is a time when we are called upon to be with others and to give love, and yet, many of us end up feeling invisible, neglected, overburdened or having to fit in in order to please others. It is almost impossible to enjoy others’ company if we don’t take care of ourselves. This is a year where many have to spend Christmas alone or in small groups, and so it is easy to forget the pleasures of solitude and what a difference it makes to have time to enjoy one’s own company.
10. Christmas is for children. The psychoanalyst Donald Winnicott talked about the importance of the white lies parents tell children, such as that Santa exists, for their psychological development. There is value in keeping the stereotype of the unblemished, merry, joyful Christmas for the children we nurture, especially after the year we all had, as well as for the child inside us. So, have a Merry Christmas everybody
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