I will come right out and say that I am a bit of a humbug when it comes to holidays. It pretty much just reminds me of what a messed up and broken wreck my side of the family is. To be honest, I mostly use the few days of the holidays where everyone celebrates as an excuse to read a book or do something I want to do and be left alone.
Despite my Christmas and holiday grouchiness, I have observed that others just get a bit stressed especially now with how divided everyone seems. I have made an effort to be a bit more on board about the holidays, but it is a challenge. Here are my tips for getting through the holidays without being too overwhelmed.
Avoid talking about politics on any level. This is rule #1 after not drinking and driving.
Oh my, if you want to ruin Christmas just bring up any political news or events. Worse still is there are plenty that simply will not take no for an answer when it comes to talking about politics. My solution for this is to change the subject. In fact, my rule is to try to change it twice. After that second attempt fails, then I walk away. If someone pursues me after I walk away and is super determined to engage me in the political talk there is a good chance I will leave altogether. I think that holiday celebrations should not lead to political confrontations and if they do, then exiting and going home to do something I will actually enjoy is completely acceptable. Life is too short to spend with people that cannot deal with differences or talk about something else for a change.
Worrying about how much you spent will make you miserable. Spend what you can or make some gifts and if people act snotty then maybe they are not who is deserving of your attention and time during the holidays. Chances are no one is going to truly think better of you if they don’t like you just because you give them something fancy. Spending more does not buy true warm feelings or acceptance.
Consider if a gift is really a good choice for someone
Are you buying something because you like it or because you really want the receiver of the gift to like it even though it is not really for them? If you have to buy a gift for someone you don’t know very well then give something that everybody uses or if you are really lost, a gift card or another store that has practically everything is better than getting them something that may appear like you didn’t even try to consider them. A cheaper or smaller gift someone can actually use is better than buying something fancy that is useless to them.
Do something for yourself
Do you spend the entire holiday catering to others? Does it seem like all you do is cook and clean and spend money? Well, that is a bunch of garbage. Everyone needs to take some time to do something for themselves while doing all that for others. I didn’t cook anything major for Thanksgiving this year. It was good to take a year off from it. Take a day and devour a book if that is your deal. Make sure to have a few evenings planned where you don’t have to run around like a nut to get everything done and keep everyone happy.
Remember that it is okay to say no
Some people get invited to so many different gatherings that before they realize it, they don’t have a free moment to spare during the whole holiday season. If you are a social butterfly, then that may be a great feeling, but it can be very stressful too. It also puts one in a position of picking and choosing or being afraid of offending if an invite is turned down. Well, the fact is that most will not be offended. It is a busy social season. I don’t go to a lot of events. Pretty much I go to the required family ones, and that is it. There is nothing wrong with saying no or that you have other plans. It is your holiday, and you don’t have to go to a gathering every week or several times a week.
When in doubt keep quiet
I would rather someone ask if I am okay or if something is the matter because I am being quiet than deal with engaging in some conversations or with some people. Learn the art of smiling and nodding and the graceful exit. Don’t take the bait when someone is trying to draw you into a conversation, especially when the topic is something you would rather not discuss. Silence or something close to it can be golden when used at the right time and place.
Ask yourself if you are really going to do any good trying to explain something that is there is a disagreement about? Enlightening others is one thing, but it is usually pretty clear to me when someone really has their mind made up, and you are just poking the bear. There is no changing some people’s minds, and if you try to or ask them why they believe a certain way or no explain something in detail, it makes things worse.
Do not take the bait if someone starts being rude about prepping and starts in with the stereotypes
If you are concerned about how to deal with this, then you may want to take a look at “Overcoming Prepper Stereotypes.”
Of course, there is no help for some so you will probably need to grit your teeth and walk away. Major rudeness and negativity is often someone trying to overcompensate for their insecurities. Something to keep in mind for the particularly difficult to deal with people in your life.
Spread the work out among family for main dinners
Cooking and cleaning up for a lot of people can be nerve-wracking and tiring. There are things you can do to make life a little easier. Here are a few things to consider
- Consider a potluck style holiday dinner where you could provide the main meat dish, and others could bring all the sides.
- Use disposable plates and cutlery for large gatherings. I love real plates and my nice silverware too but if I had to feed 15 people a holiday dinner we would have to do something else. The platter style, super strong dinnerware is less than $5 and will take care of all of those dishes. If you use some disposable cookware like a turkey pan or the big lasagna pans for doing mashed taters and green bean casseroles, then you can minimize clean up, and it is very easy to refrigerate leftovers until consumed, canned, or frozen
- If you have various family within a reasonable distance, you may want to rotate who hosts the main gathering each year. This can help out busy households because they are only responsible every few years but everyone still gets to have a Christmas gathering they can attempt to enjoy.
Shop at small stores or online to avoid the nightmare of overcrowded stores and stressed shoppers
Shopping local helps keep money in your area for sure, but I also realize that not everyone lives near a town where small business is thriving, and it can be hard to find some things on a local level. The alternative is online of course. Even if you wish to shop big box stores like Wal Mart or Target, if you can wait for two days for shipping it can save you a lot of hassle and time. Shopping from your home is safer and easier than entering a Super Wal Mart during the holidays. It is like Mad Max times in there. Matt has to tell me to calm down when we go in that store for ammo or gun stuff on occasion; I try to avoid it. The spaces and crowds are just not for damaged goods like myself.
If you have relatives and friends spread out then shopping online allows you just to have gifts sent directly to the person without you having to rebox or ship yourself. That is a big deal because $10 doesn’t ship much. Theoretically, you could shop for basically everyone and have it delivered. If gift wrap is important, some will take care of that for a modest charge. Kids seem to be the crowd that appreciates wrapping the most due to the fun factor, so any money spends on gift wrap is probably best spent on the kids, not the adults.
Give yourself a timeout when things get to be too much. Have an exit plan even if you don’t really intend on using it.
I think ahead a lot. As a writer, I play out a lot of different scenarios in my head. This is not always a great thing, but it makes me feel better sometimes. So I think about ways to give myself an “out” if the situation gets intense.
My milder timeout involves having a funny holiday storybook that can be easily hidden and pulled out whenever necessary. This year I have Holiday’s On Ice by David Sedaris. Being able to laugh about other ridiculous holiday situations can be a good mood booster and keep me from turning red or saying something that probably isn’t going to do any good.
The more extreme holiday escape plan is to go hide and write somewhere that I can be summoned at a moment’s notice or wondering off to The VFW bar where I can sit down and talk about survival, guns, knives, and complain about the veterans administration.
I am good at those things due to decades of practice.
Heck, I might even take my word processor with me and write a blog post for you!
You can see where I am going with this. Find your time out and don’t be afraid to fantasize a little. Just think a little bit before you act!
Evaluate for next year
It may sound harsh, but I think that it is worth it to evaluate how things went and see if you want to do them again next year. Life is too short if your current traditions don’t seem to be doing it for you or your family then why not mix it up a bit. For Thanksgiving this year we had Sushi with my Dad that we made at home from local smoked trout, drank Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Gris wine, shot some guns, and watched some videos from the AK Operators Union to learn a little about some guns and gunsmithing. Thanksgiving at our place was just Matt and I plus my Dad, so we did it our way and then had a traditional Thanksgiving the next day at Matt’s parent’s house.
I think while people do need to consider others during the holidays, they also need to think about themselves a bit too. There are too many people that always seem miserable and feel guilty about not doing everything others want to do the whole season. I think we can all do better than that.
At least try to not fall into the smartphone trap
I know that people have jobs and stay busy a lot but let’s all take a moment and say “I will not put my cell phone on the holiday table. I will not stare at my phone constantly and ignore everyone.” It can be hard to avoid the phone trap. This happens about an hour into a gathering when people run out of things to talk about since they can’t talk about politics. It can be worse after the dinner due to food-induced sleepiness. This is a good sign. it means you got through dinner with everyone being civil and content.
Resort to your phone if things get tense and you need it for a “time out” but if all of us are going to do this holiday thing, spend time traveling, etc. why not make a bit of effort?
Oh and definitely no bringing out a cell phone to look up information just to prove someone wrong. People do this too much, and it really is rude and often winds up with people using their phones to debate for hours at a time. We all know how to look something up but do we really need to at holiday gatherings?
Christmas for Matt and I
We will see how Christmas goes. For Christmas day and eve we will probably just do what we want to do since family gets together a week or so after. I am probably going to do what I do on many winter evenings which is read and write and consider the thousands of possible disasters, SHTF moments, and survival situations that can inspire some post or expand my brain.
Of course, there will be plenty of food and beverage involved.
Christmas, as we celebrate it with Matt’s side of the family, is always done a week after the calendar Christmas, so things are spread out a bit.
Try to get something positive out of gatherings even if it seems impossible
I like being at home, so I guess that is part of what makes me so grumpy about having to go places for events. For some being happy at home is rare, but it took years of investing time and money into my place, and now it is pretty nice, and I don’t get hassled. I can run around and shoot off fireworks, hoot and holler, or do all other kinds of things that could get me in trouble in public. At the same time, I do try to see the positive side of leaving the farm on occasion. For example, I get to be reminded of how great it is at home. Oops, that was awful! No, all kidding aside it is good to get together with those you care about and be thankful for what you have. Then there is the fact that the holidays are the time to indulge in ridiculous amounts of food and beverage that we don’t normally have on hand.
Do you have a hard time with the holiday season? What do you do to make it better for yourself and those around you?
Samantha Biggers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org