Monday, 3 January 2011


            Now that the thrills and indulgences of the holiday season are over, I hope you are all able to find some rest and relaxation and recovery from it all. Now we have to figure out how to get through the rest of the winter and the drabness that always seems to come after the sparkle of the holidays
One thing I want to spend a bit of time talking about, before I go on to the future, is a trend I noticed this Christmas repeated over and over: STRESS!
On Facebook which I monitor and comment on daily, I saw at least five, maybe more, people expressing frustration and stating that they were stressed out because the holidays weren’t turning out they way they wanted or the way they were “supposed” to be. The universal theme seemed to be that circumstances that no one could control were working to ruin Christmas.
True there were many things that happened in December that hampered Christmas preparations and. First, there was the weather. Beginning in the start of December here and later, closer to Christmas in the US we all had major snow storms hit. Not only did this close schools, roads, stores, etc. and hamper Christmas shopping but it made it impossible here for a lot of deliveries to arrive in time. Most stores had suspended or cancelled Christmas delivery promises. In fact, one of our local papers had a huge headline that said: “Christmas Cancelled” (which I’m sure a lot of kids loved to see!). Link to that story:
As the days got closer to Christmas our snow didn’t melt and the freeze continued so that it was extremely difficult to clear the roads even if more snow didn’t fall. Airports all across the UK were closed and almost no one was able to travel into or out of the UK. It was especially bad at Heathrow in London. People not only had to spend days (yes, more than one) sleeping in the terminal but because of that the terminals were crammed with people trying to get flights they weren’t even letting anyone inside the terminals. Many people had to stand in huge lines outside in the freezing cold. The Salvation Army set up tents and went around handing out hot coffee and tea as if it were a war zone.
So it seemed that there were thousands of people whose Christmas travel plans were ruined. Most people didn’t even try to travel and spent the holidays at home, whether they wanted to or not.
Then there was illness. A lot of people, unsurprisingly, were down with whatever bug/cold was going around. Robbie had a cold for most of November but I was very, very, thankful to remain relatively illness free for Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s. I was on a course of antibiotics for 10 days during Christmas because of my leg so I don’t know if that had anything to do with it or not. I also didn’t get a flu shot this year. I know a few people who were ill before Christmas and with illnesses running through the whole family so I know that put quite a damper on Christmas.
And then there’s the economy. Most people didn’t either have the money or credit to buy things like before or didn’t want to chance it in these uncertain times. Our utility costs have gone up and they’re raising the price of gas and VAT (like a sales tax) so our cost of living has gone up quite a bit. We just decided to—or Robbie decided to—limit our gift giving to the very basics. So many people I love and appreciate didn’t get a tangible gift from us this year. I hope none of you felt less loved and appreciated because of it. Believe me, you remain in my heart as always.
So, with all these uncontrollable circumstances out to “ruin” Christmas, how did yours turn out? Was it spoiled? Will you remember it as a disaster? Or were there moments when you realized that being together, being warm and filled and looking at lovely Christmas tree lights was enough? Did Christmas come anyway whether you had all the things done on your checklist or not? And did you make some memories to take into another year? Even if you said, well it was an ok Christmas but it wasn’t so bad, then please remember that when you get stressed next year.
I know it’s too late for this year but spend some time thinking what Christmas really means to you and what you need to do to make that happen.  Then cut out anything that causes you anxiety or costs too much money and forget it. I know it’s nothing new to talk about losing the spirit of Christmas. Every time Charlie Brown’s Christmas is played we revisit that idea. But I just get sad and uncomfortable when I see people running around in a frenzy buying, baking, cleaning, cooking, decorating and for what? Giving is wonderful and should make you feel good not something you “have” to do. Celebrations should be happy, relaxing times not just getting people together (whether it’s friends or family) and then having to walk around on eggshells or referee the latest family feud.
Yes, I know I’m preaching too much here and that’s not really what this is for but I wanted to put it out there for maybe someone’s benefit. If it in any way makes next year less stressful and happier then I’m glad. Let me just continue to encourage you to let go of expectations of picture-perfect holidays. Our lives are not like the movies, or the TV shows or the magazines—well, mine sure isn’t! And lest you think I don’t know what I’m talking about or it’s easy for me, let me tell you, until the last few years I’ve been one of the worst offenders for making holidays stressful.
I, too, thought unless I had my house looking like Martha Stewart lived there I had failed, I was a person who cooked a huge Christmas dinner with all the trimmings, three different kinds of cookies, AND a cake (for 6 people), I thought the world would end if I didn’t have or give my son the latest, greatest, trendiest toy/gadget/game. And I was also the person who fell asleep over a bowl of cookie dough, got cranky with my family, thought I was inadequate because I couldn’t make my own wreath (she made it look SO easy on TV!) and had credit card bills to pay later. 
Traditions are all well and good and give us comfort and anchors to our past and our identity. There are things that we must have to remind us of our past and our families. But some things need to be left at the wayside if they make us crazy. Besides, do our families really want to remember us as snappish, impatient and exhausted every Christmas?
I know this hasn’t been my usual blog entry and I promise I will tell you how we spent our holidays. Just a preview: Robbie cooked! I just had to get this off my chest because I think it’s important. Some of you may have been way ahead of me learning these lessons so I just want to thank you for your example to me. I hope everyone had an enjoyable Christmas this year. 
Love to you all and may next year be stress free—well, maybe stress-lessened?? I look forward to any and all comments!