The Christmas period can mean a time of joy and relaxation for those that celebrate it – the exchange of gifts, time away from the workplace, eating and drinking far too much. For some this is just not a realistic picture and memories of past Christmases are not always positive – be it estrangement or loss of family or friends, trauma experienced during the festive period which make it difficult or even impossible to simply “relax” during the Christmas period.
Before an atmosphere of goodwill and cheer, Christmas can actually become more of a beacon of stress for those that feel pressure to live up to idyllic depictions of a “perfect Christmas.” In any case, Christmas does not just happen – no matter how magical the movies that you watch are or how many letters are written to Santa, the reality is that behind the scenes somebody must do the legwork to bring it all together. Most of the time, this is gender-driven and it is the mothers who are left with twice the pressure and double the work to make Christmas “happen” for the entire family. But for the purpose of this piece and to ensure we cover all people; we will call these people ‘Home Makers’ who may be of any gender 😉.
Be it through Instagram, a Christmas movie, or an advert in a TV break, the expectations and standards of a perfect Christmas are in-grained and re-enforced into us. The twinkling lights and illuminations strung up outside the neighbours’ houses, a delicious spread of food to satisfy the whole family, not to mention the arm-length list of presents to buy for family and friends. For many homemakers, this new workload does not mean that the regular demands of maintaining a household simply go away. When other members of the family remark “I can’t wait for Christmas,” there is an element of obliviousness behind the words, which suggest a lack of understanding and underestimation of how much time and effort tasks will take to achieve this perceived notion of Christmas. Nearly every portrayal shows a cosy cheerful, tastefully decorated home, surrounded by pristine snow, in which a happy family gathers to share a large dinner cooked to picture-postcard perfection. Compared to most peoples’ actual experiences, this is a far more optimistic and idyllic re-telling of the festivities which is bound to leave people upset if Christmas at home does not measure up to this exactly.
The customs of gift giving and receiving during the holiday season are emphasised and arguably one of the most stress-inducing elements. The heap of presents beneath the tree, the office Secret Santa, the list of gifts needed for your friends and family, your partners’ friends and family, colleagues – all of these encourage an unhealthy level of consumption that we are often told is necessary and societally acceptable. However, each family’s situation is different and therefore – it is not always financially viable or logical to consume and spend at this rate, nor is it the key to an enjoyable Christmas. Even if a family is financially capable, it can be said that the origins of the Christmas holiday do not extend to the material and the expensive as a symbol of love and care.
This isn’t to say, however, that Christmas is by default a hard and stressful time. It can be brilliant, providing all the good things we expect and more. But it’s important to recognise that this isn’t a given, or automatic. It all requires time, effort and investment. Ignoring this will just make it more stressful in the long run.
If you are the ‘home-maker’ and the responsibilities of organising Christmas largely fall to you:
- Be reminded that you are only human and no ‘perfect’ Christmas is perfect if it is at the cost of your own health
- This is your Christmas too. That means you are fully certified to enlist some help from the other family members and relax should you want to!
- There is nothing wrong with setting a budget and sticking to it. Lavish and expensive gifts are always nice to receive but often the gifts that hold the most powerful memories are the ones that have thought, care and intention behind them.
To those that just can’t wait for Christmas!:
- Christmas is the best time to show appreciation for the work that goes into the holiday as well as every other time of the year. It’s quite possible that a lot is done behind the scenes that go unnoticed or you’ve come to take for granted over time.
- Take some time to think more deeply about the emotional and physical needs of your loved ones. Before splurging on a brand-new iPad for someone you care about, think about what they really might like.
- For the home-maker, this is likely going to be “help clean the house”, “teach me how to use my overly complicated phone”, “help me assemble that IKEA desk I bought six months ago”. If this means watching some tutorials on YouTube beforehand, then so be it! Your loved ones will really appreciate the effort made to help and assist them.
- Often, we do not have lasting memories of the “things” that we receive but instead, the intention and care of the giver. The most important thing that we can give to those that care for us is time. Whether that means cleaning around the house or making them dinner, we are taking a job off their hands and giving them more time to spend as they wish.
- This love and care is enough. If you are still looking for a Christmas gift that you can give your loved one to unwrap, you could get them something small and write a little note with it which alludes to how you plan to help them!
By Jess Dobbs, Student