The beauty and grace of Christmas carols, Midnight Mass, the Nativity and the energy of the season bring our attention to the real meaning of Christmas, and the spiritual essence of the celebration. While we get together on Christmas day with the best of intentions, the stress and the expectation around the holidays can really put a strain on our relationships.
Let’s face it, the practicalities of Christmas and the lead up to the day is a busy time. First the list of people we need to buy presents for is sometimes as long as our arm, and what to get them? Then there is the actual shopping, coping with crowds, traffic and expectations of gifts to be given and received. There is also the financial burden. Here in Australia, this yule tide, winter warming activity is taking place when it is hot. Often darn hot! We get wound up, feel pressure to complete the many things that need to be done before the end of the year and we lose our sense of peace. When we are back with our family of origin, all of our unresolved childhood stuff can also come up and that can be a recipe for drama.
What follows are some tips, inspired by my recent book Empowering Relationships and the seminar we offer, with the same name, through Shanti Mission. I hope these ideas help you to keep it all together and be at peace through Christmas, particularly on Christmas day.
1. Don’t Panic! It really is rule number one about everything. Leading up to Christmas and during it, start a schedule now of daily meditation. It will help you relax, feel more at ease, and enjoy the many health benefits that this ancient practice gives. Meditate on Christmas morning and visualise a wonderful day while clearing your mind of any negative thoughts.
2. Planning ahead is the best way to find peace. Have a list when you go shopping, and pay cash whenever you can. Practice the virtue of moderation. It is all too easy to overspend when that little piece of plastic is whipped out. Before we know it we are paying off Christmas cheer for months and perhaps even feeling some animosity for ‘having’ to buy gifts.
3. Avoid competing with siblings or others to hold the best ever Christmas bash. This is feeding our egos not the spirit of Christmas. Keep it simple, make it wholesome, fun, and put the focus on family and friends instead of lavish preparations. Believe in yourself: you don’t have to prove anything.
4. Some families just love to argue. If that leaves you cold, try and understand that you don’t have to take it on. You don’t have to agree with them, you don’t have to join in. Take a deep breath, remember that lunch will not last forever, and quietly send love to everyone involved, to help them calm down.
5. Have good manners, even if they don’t. Be empowered to be pleasant. Act don’t react: think of how your communication might land, and avoid yelling and screaming, even if you feel really justified! Learning to respond rather than have a knee jerk reaction is a part of our spiritual evolution. Watch your communication style, make requests not demands, be assertive, not aggressive.
6. Give up needing to be right about everything. This sucks a lot of energy out of us and fuels conflict. Take a deep breath, and let it go.
7. Watch out for old patterns of behaviour. Avoid falling into being ‘the rebel’ or ‘the peacemaker’ or ‘the difficult child’. You are a grown up now, and have learned a lot since childhood. Have fun noticing old family patterns instead of being enmeshed in them. Be the self you are now, don’t be the role you played back then.
8. Be flexible. Let it flow, get out of the habit of needing to control the day. Truly, there are a thousand ways to spice a casserole or make a pudding. And while they might not be how you do it, it will all be ok. The more relaxed and flexible you are, the easier it will be.
9. Reward every person’s ‘try,’ to be better and don’t be super critical. Be ok with individual differences and remember that no one is perfect and everyone makes mistakes, even you!
10. Some people will do anything for approval. It is something we all need, but often we look for it in all the wrong places. Don’t be dependent upon your family to give approval to you, particularly if they are not that good at giving it to them in return. Give yourself lots of approval, and thus avoid becoming a slave to any outrageous expectations or demands your family might make of you. When we approve of ourselves, we are free of the games of the past.
11. Don’t assume that people should know what support you need or want over Christmas. We can get angry, thinking ‘they should know how I feel or what I need’. But think for a moment. This is assuming that your family members have advanced telepathic powers and can read minds. Learn to calmly state what you want or need so that at least they know.
12. There is a time and a place for discussions. For healthy relationships, it is important that there be real, honest and deep communication. If there is a known area of conflict, Christmas lunch is not the place to air it. Don’t start a discussion that is likely to create conflict yourself, and agree to another time and place to discuss things if someone else tries to start a disagreement with you.
I hope these tips help you to be at peace over Christmas. Remember why we are celebrating in the first place, the life of an amazing Avatar of God. Enjoy the holidays! For more on Empowering Relationships click here.