Updated: Nov 18, 2019
Christmas is coming, have you noticed?! The usual supermarket adverts hit TV a few weeks ago, most depicting a family of some kind enjoying a traditional meal with kids and relatives of varying ages gathered around smiling, if that’s the kind of Christmas you’re aiming for, congratulations, I genuinely hope you enjoy it. But some of those traditions start to feel like an albatross around my neck nowadays. That’s the thing about traditions, sometimes they can become a chore and yet we follow them, often through gritted teeth because, well, they’re traditions.
Whether it’s the excess of food, the weight of expectations, the money or the environmental cost of unnecessary and often unwanted gifts, I can’t help thinking a ‘traditional’ Christmas may not be fit for purpose anymore. So how do we start a new kind of Christmas?
I always encourage my coaching clients to manage their expectations. This isn’t to thwart ambition, it’s to set that ambition within the context of reality, especially when we’re dealing with the variables of the other people around us. Accept that your Christmas will not be like the ones on the TV adverts, there will be squabbles and pettiness, arguments and tears, and that’s just the grownups. If you have children they are likely to be chronically over excited or just disappear into their rooms for 17 hours each day. They tend to leave those bits out of the Christmas adverts and concentrate on the 30 seconds of peace and quiet that makes for aspirational viewing. Your turkey won’t look like the one in the Waitrose ad, nor will your tree, and no-one wears that much cashmere around gravy. This doesn’t mean you can’t have an enjoyable Christmas, you can, you can also have a Christmas that involves less stress, cost and environmental impact.
The latest Christmas song from Kathleen Edwards sums up the Christmas tradition perfectly.
So, if you find a tradition isn’t working for you at this point in your life, drop it. You can always pick it up again later if you wish. Once, when our children were young, we had pizza for Christmas dinner, sacrilege! And we ate it whilst watching You’ve Been Framed! Double sacrilege!! It was great, the world failed to notice and we all had a lovely relaxed time. If you’d rather have a reheated takeaway than the faff of a full roast, just do it, we did last year and it was great. Veg dhansak and saag paneer for Christmas dinner, yes please! Old traditions can have a place, but you can also create your own special traditions too, and they can be just as meaningful and fun and feel a little rebellious too. Don’t feel like you have to blindly follow someone else’s rules for a game you’d rather not play. A friend of mine has just booked to work on an organic farm for the whole month of December, it wouldn’t be my first choice, but, hey, whatever works for her. Feel free to trim a tradition to something more suitable to you and your family, or make your own traditions, starting now.
We've had various cardboard Christmas trees in our house over the last few years, this is the best yet.
Don’t wait for the world to catch up with the fact we all spend too much money on each other at this time of year. According to the Bank of England, the increase in monthly spend for the typical family in December will be around £500, I’m not an economist but I doubt most people would get £500 of enjoyment from that extra spend. Martin Lewis’ Money Saving website has a ‘no unnecessary present pact’ (NUPP) offering a free tool to help you broach the subject of agreeing not to buy presents with family and friends. How about setting a spending limit (having only £10 to spend on someone means you put much more thought into that gift) and insist that gifts have to be second hand or consist of promises to each other? Wouldn’t that bring a bit of creativity and save a lot of waste?
The average family’s household waste increases by 30% over the Christmas period, that’s a scary thought when we are in a climate crisis. I feel nauseous at the amount of packaging and waste I see being thrown away in January, all those transparent plastic blister packs peeping out the top of the dustbin. How about wrapping your presents in newspaper instead of plasticised shiny gift wrap? Much easier to recycle.
Always bear in mind that most young children would much rather spend the day playing on the floor with their parents and some second hand Lego than receive some shiny, over packaged toy destined for landfill.
“We’ve lost sight of what Christmas is all about” gets banded about a lot, usually in January, when the credit card bills land and the overstuffed bin gets picked up by the dustbin lorry. It could be different, much less stress, much less cost, much less waste, but actually more fun, mainly because of that drop in stress, cost and waste.
Start the change now with these 5 quick wins
Broach the subject of not buying presents with people. If you can’t go that far then set a limit.
Hate that January feeling when your cupboards are still stuffed full of chocolates and treats? Cut down on the amount of food you buy. The supermarkets are only closed for about 36 hours, no-one will starve!
Get outside at every opportunity, walking round a quiet town or city centre on Xmas day is great and costs nothing, basically…..move!
Don’t blow all the money you’ve saved in the sales, ask yourself “Do I really need it? Will it bring me happiness?” Fear of missing out can be powerful, don’t give in to it, realistically if you miss out on that new phone/dress/whatever, you’ll find another later.
Make your own traditions that work for you and your family.
I hope you have the Christmas you’d like, let it be your Christmas.