How to Survive Family Holidays at Christmas
Christmas really is the most wonderful time of year… for the most part. The parties, food, decorations, alcohol and presents are all great, but then on the other hand, we’re spending it all with our families. Whether it’s just a few hours on Christmas day or you’re spending a few days visiting, Christmas is a time for family holidays. Some people are over the moon about this, some not so much.
For some families, Christmas is the one time of year where everyone gets together. It generally starts off quite exciting as you greet all the relatives you haven’t seen or spoken to in 12 months. Then as the space gets more and more cluttered with distant family members, tensions start to rise.
It’s all the nit-picky questions your relatives tend to ask while making small talk in the wait for lunch to be served. “So, you’re still single?” “Wasn’t that the same job you had last Christmas?” “Have you put on weight since last year?” Brutal and highly inappropriate. But that’s the beauty of family members on family holidays, they can say whatever they want because you’re genetically programmed to love them anyway. This doesn’t make family holidays any easier though, it just makes them harder to get out of.
As children, Christmas is literally the best day ever (apart from Birthdays of course… and Easter). Kids don’t have a care in the world when it comes to family holidays. The more people there, the more presents they get. Then you get older and instead of worrying about how full your stocking is, you start worrying about how interesting your lunch table conversation is going to be, or whether Nanna can see that new tattoo on your ankle.
Spending extended amounts of time with family can get a little stressful, especially around Christmas. If you combine the pressures of contributing to Christmas lunch, the present giving, having to think about what to wear (so Aunty Sharon doesn’t comment about how low cut your top is for a family event again) AND the idea of doing all of this surrounded by your entire family, it would make anyone a little anxious. That’s why we have put together a few tips on how to survive Christmas with the family.
Tips for surviving Christmas with the family
Bribe a friend to come with you
– This one is great for the teenagers/ young adults of the family. Everyone has at least one friend that knows how to put the charm on with other people’s families. Whoever this friend is for you, convince them to come along. This will give your relatives a shiny new toy to play with instead of ripping their teeth into your already wounded ego.
Stay at a hotel
– This is not always affordable, especially for family holidays over Christmas, but if it is doable, we recommend having your own space if you’re traveling to see family this Christmas. While crashing with your rellies can be cheap and easy, just remember that when Christmas lunch is over, you still can’t leave. Having your own space will make your visit much more pleasant.
Alcohol is a great ice breaker
– This one could go two ways. Either you drink enough to lift your mood and lower your irritability, or you drink too much and lose your ability to bite your tongue when you’re asked how many cats you have for the third time that day. “Yes, Debbie, I live alone with 3 cats! At least I’m not… old!” Is exactly what you want to avoid. Drink enough to be chill but still able to control your emotions.
Be the one asking the questions
– Do your best to bombard your family members with as many questions as you can think of to distract them from questioning you, this will also make you seem more interested in what’s going on with them. An effective strategy here is to answer a question with a question. For example, “Alan, why don’t you have a girlfriend?” you could then reply with “why do you think I don’t have a girlfriend?” This will either allow for the questioner to answer their own question so you don’t have to, or make them so uncomfortable that they drop the topic all together.
Fake it to make it
– Sometimes you just need to accept that your family holidays might be more business than pleasure. In that case, it’s best to approach it like you would a business meeting or job interview – be very polite and lie. It’s likely that the rest of your family will just carry on how they normally do so it would be a good idea to mould yourself to their expectations just for that one day. If you’re able to swallow your pride like that, just tell them exactly what they want to hear and then once you’ve said your goodbye’s, your life can go back to how it was before you arrived that day.
Take as many bathroom breaks as you can
– Find as many excuses as you can to leave the table when things get tense. Needing to go to the bathroom is a great excuse however there are only so many times you can ‘need’ to use the loo before you start to attract attention. Another great excuse is having to return a phone call to a friend to wish them a merry Christmas. Then call whichever friend you know will pick up and have a quick rant about your day, chances are they will rant right back at you. Make sure you take your drink with you everywhere you go (for moral support).
– Getting the family to partake in fun activities together is a great distraction from all the interrogation. Get some backyard cricket going, or a card game or board game, or even a ‘who can stay quiet the longest’ game. Get everyone involved, get everyone a drink and take the family away from the topics that you don’t all agree on. There’s no better way to lighten the mood than with a bit of friendly competition… just steer clear of Monopoly as that never ends well.
Never make future commitments
– Under no circumstance should you make any plans to meet up with the family in the new year. No Easter, no birthdays, don’t even fully commit to coming to Christmas next year. It’s always smart to leave your options open. It might sound like a nice idea at the time but it is likely you will come to regret promising to go to Cousin Holly’s 6th birthday party.
Reminisce about better times
– If the conversation turns a little tense over the lunch table, try and bring up past Christmas experiences that were a lot more fun that this one. “Remember that time Uncle Stephen got so drunk he fell in the pool with his clothes on?” Or “remember that time we all had fun together and genuinely enjoyed each others company? Let’s get back to that.” Reminiscing on the good times will hopefully open the door for even more good times to come.
Look at pictures of cute things
– If you to feel a little agitated, or there’s a conversation going on around you that you’re not interested in, type in ‘puppies and babies’ or ‘funny cat compilation’ into YouTube and your spirits will be lifted almost instantly. You could even share it round the table to spread the joy.
– Offer to help clear the table or pack the dishwasher. This will surely improve the mood of the hosts and score you brownie points in the process. Plus, you just need to be significantly helpful once and then you’re off the hook for the rest of the day.
– One great way to get out of family holidays over Christmas is to volunteer for a good cause. This will serve as a legitimate alternative to family Christmas and you’ll be doing something good for the community. Volunteer your time at a Christmas food drive or charity event and not only will you survive Christmas with the family (because you won’t have to go), you will also impress them with your amazing selflessness.
Imagine if your family wasn’t your family
– Take a second to picture what things would be like without these crazy people in your life. Looks a little sad, doesn’t it? Even though they might drive you up the wall and most of them are certifiably bonkers, they add so much value to your life that things would be very dull without them. As uncomfortable and ego-bruising as some family holidays can be, things can always be worse!
Think of our prehistoric ancestors who had no chance of ever escaping their family since abandoning their tribe meant a death sentence in the wild, and think about the people who aren’t spending their Christmas with loving family and friends, amazing food, and flowing drinks. Then, stop being such a baby, suck it up, and appreciate what you have while you have it.
How to give the perfect Christmas gift
One thing that can determine how your family Christmas is going to go is the gift giving. It normally happens at the start of the day so if this does not go well, it could be a sign of things to come for the rest of your family holidays. Here are some tips on how to give the perfect Christmas gift that will help you avoid an awkward start to your Christmas day.
Make it fun
–There’s nothing funnier on Christmas morning than watching someone hastily unwrap layers and layers of paper in the hopes that they’ll get down to the actual present before the sun goes down. Making the unwrapping of the gift as fun as the gift itself is a great way to lift spirits on your family holidays. It’s important here to make sure that the gift is above average considering you’ve increased their expectations with your excessive wrapping.
Memories are better than material
– Unless you’re buying someone a Dyson Stick Vacuum or brand-new iPhone, sometimes it’s better to give someone an experience rather than a product. Take your loved one to a show or promise to shout them dinner and drinks at their favourite restaurant. Find an activity that they would just love to do and then gift it to them for Christmas. If you go with them, your brownie points will also double.
Make a list of everything they’re interested in
– Write down what interests each of your present recipients have and then brainstorm at item or activity that is best suited for them. If your Uncle loves rugby, buy him a ticket to a game, if your Mum loves wine (like most Mums do), take her on a local wine tour, or if your cousin has a green thumb, buy him a unique plant or a mushroom farm.
Sprinkle it with a touch of yourself
– Make the gift personal to further emphasise the amount of thought you’ve put into making your loved one happy. Personalising a gift could range from a homemade card, to a personalised poem on the card, to literally creating the gift yourself (e.g. paint them a picture, knit them a scarf, etc.)
– Everyone loves wit (or at least everyone should love wit). Don’t just give someone a boring old gift voucher. Give them a gift voucher inside an iPhone box, inside a shoe box, inside a ‘Reject Store’ bag. They’ll be so confused by their mixed feelings of excitement and disappointment that they’re bound to love their actual gift.
It really is the thought that counts
– It doesn’t really matter what gifts you give to your loved ones on your family holidays. If it’s obvious that you’ve put a decent amount of thought into it. You could even get your brother the most hideous pair of board shorts that have ever touched the light of day. If you write on the card why they remind you of him*, he’ll surely appreciate them anyway.
*Don’t write “these board shorts are ugly and that’s why they reminded me of you… because you’re also ugly”. Write something like “these board shorts reminded me of you because they’re practical, daring, and astonishingly unique”.
We hope that after reading this you’re feeling a little more at ease about the upcoming family holidays. Christmas is a time for giving, receiving, happiness, food and alcohol. Don’t let your family differences take away from any of that. Follow our tips on how to survive Christmas with your family and you’ll be feeling the love all the way through the new year.