As we draw ever closer to the end of December, many of my clients have been secretly declaring their hatred of the festive season.
And I get it.
Why? Because not so long ago that was true for me too.
I was a single parent, short of cash and feeling the pressure to create the perfect Christmas for my two boys. I did my best to act the part but, in all honesty, I couldn’t wait for the whole darn thing to be over.
But then something changed.
I realised that whether you love it or loathe it, there is no escaping the festivities. Here in the UK, from the moment the candles flicker out inside the Halloween pumpkins, it’s a non-stop parade of Christmas trees, cutely wrapped parcels and cuddly Santas in the shops and on our TV screens.
That’s a good three months for that seething resentment to build for those who dislike it.
But before you think that I am promoting the escalating and over-glitzy consumerism of our current culture, let me be clear that I am not a fan of the way things have developed.
Whether you celebrate Christmas or not, I don’t think that any event should be reduced to money. Spending for spending’s sake is both meaningless and irresponsible. There are quite enough land-full sites without more unwanted and discarded gifts to add to the pile.
Yet arguing against the festivities probably won’t bring you any peace or joy this holiday season. More likely you will be left out in the cold with only accusations of “bah-humbug” to keep you company.
So how can you enjoy this time of the year? Here are my three top tips:
- Re-define what you would like this period of the year to mean to you.
Just because the rest of the nation thinks that Christmas should be celebrated with a decorated tree and roast turkey, doesn’t mean that you have to follow suit.
Ditch the cultural norms and make up your own rules.
It’s the end of another year. How would you like to celebrate that? Let what is most important to you be your guide.
Do you want your Christmas to be about love, connection or acknowledging your successes? Find a single-word or phrase that gives this period meaning.
For me, I love that I get to dive into my creativity. I make my own cards, gifts, decorations and wrapping paper. This year, I made a banner that symbolises my desire to own a small holding in the future. No Santas or Christmas trees but a rooster and a pig take pride of place.
- Move beyond money
Celebrations that make money the focal point can only ever bring a superficial level of fulfilment. It doesn’t matter how shiny or expensive the gift, appeal fades over time without any meaning or special intention behind it. If you are short of cashflow, buying presents for the whole family can be overwhelming and put you into debt for months. Even if you have money, the process of present giving often involves a last minute rush, fighting through the crowds and navigating the long queues.
Step out of this paradigm by deciding to give gifts that have meaning rather than money as the primary driver. For example, you could give experiences rather than objects. You can get great deals on the internet for spa days, wine tasting or a drive-in cinema and then make up a voucher in a box.
Or try creating your own gifts. You don’t have to be particularly arty to make a really special gift. When my eldest son was quite young, he wrote “I love you” on hundreds of scraps of paper and placed them in one of his plastic toy boxes. It is one of the most special gifts I have ever received.
- Let go of comparison
Around this time, almost every advert depicts happy families and couples celebrating the perfect Christmas. They don’t show the arguments, illnesses or the general stress that our current culture puts on us to have a good time.
It may well be that you have to spend time with people you would rather avoid or be on your own when everyone else seems to be having a merry old time together. This media onslaught invites comparison but every time you evaluate your experience against picture-perfect fiction, you will come up short.
Stay present to your own experience and on doing the things that make you happiest. Can you guarantee it will be a great Christmas? Of course not! But it definitely won’t make you feel any better by comparing your life to anyone else’s.
I’d like to take this opportunity to wish you a very happy holiday season, whatever you are doing. May 2015 bring you immense joy, peace and presence. Love Tiffany x