It’s that time of year when we are bombarded with adverts for perfume, watches, matching pyjamas and Lego sets. Then there are the adverts showing tables ladened with food, with every member of the family smiling and tucking in. It makes Christmas look like the most wonderful time of the year, but is it?
Christmas Reality Check
The reality is that this festive ideal is not easy to achieve and trying to meet expectations puts unnecessary pressure on us. We have even more things on our ‘to-do’ list and finding the time and money for shopping is stressful. At the end of the day, we can be left exhausted, with the washing up still to be done.
For this reason, we put forward the case that it isn’t turkey and the latest gadget that makes this time of year special. What if kindness is the best Christmas gift? Kindness to yourself as well as to others.
The first step towards kindness is, being honest and realistic about what Christmas might look like in your house. Then plan what would make it easier and more enjoyable for you. Next, consider ways in which you can give the gift of kindness to others.
What does Christmas Look Like in Your House?
Long Working Hours
If you are a nurse and carer, retail worker, small business owner and more, Christmas is an especially busy time of year. The peak season demands long working hours. You may get a day off to celebrate, but the thought of spending that day cooking and entertaining may not be what you dream of. Would you rather put your feet up, get cosy and enjoy a good film and a plate of snacks?
A Financial Struggle
With increases in the cost of living, many of us can’t afford the traditional Christmas dinner with all the trimmings and a stack of presents under the tree. Research by Lovell* in December 2021 revealed that the average person gets into £439 of debt at Christmas, that was before the 2022 price rises. Credit cards, Buy Now Pay Later and overdrafts are widely used to cover the costs and it typically takes 4 months to pay off this debt.
There is another way. Wouldn’t you rather have the family together and enjoy a different lunch and token gifts, than start the new year in a position of financial difficulty? Remember that time spent making things, playing games or decorating a tree with children are fun. Accept that all guests can bring a contribution to the meal. Know that a voucher for babysitting, dog walking or a home manicure is a welcome gift.
Maybe Christmas brings thoughts or memories of people that aren’t with you. Your children that are with your ex-partner this year or the grown children who now live abroad. Is this your first Christmas without a loved one? Can you hear the family next door having a joyous time, whilst you have the radio for company? Arranging a call with a friend or volunteering at a local event can help you focus on something other than loneliness.
Conversely, you may not enjoy being around the people you spend Christmas with and wish you were alone. Not all families get on and high expectations and underlying tensions, coupled with alcohol can make you feel like you are walking on eggshells. If the situation can’t be avoided, get out for a walk or close the kitchen door whilst you cook to create a bit of time for you. If you fear things might escalate, keep a friend’s number or a helpline number at hand.
What does Christmas Look Like for Others?
Christmas may be just like the adverts for you and your family. It could be your favourite time of year and that is wonderful.
Your friends may love your infectious enthusiasm and you get plenty of social likes for that stunning wreath on the front door. Your gifts of mince pies and chocolates lift work colleagues’ spirits and your cheery greetings to customers are met with smiles. However, be mindful that not everyone shares your experience.
Give People the Option to Join in the Festivities
If you organise events like Secret Santa or lunchtime drinks, make them optional. Feeling obliged to buy a token gift or glass of wine may add to someone’s financial difficulties. Also, accept that not everyone celebrates Christmas or is comfortable in social situations. Give people a genuine choice about whether they participate or not.
Be Generous to Others
Remember the gift of kindness and see if you can arrange a catch-up with someone who may find this time of year more challenging. A video call, inviting them over for a cuppa or sending a meaningful message in a card can be the best thing they receive.
If you have plenty, why not donate a toy to a local collection point or support a charity appeal? You will not know the recipient of this gift, but it can mean the world to them.
Know what to Share with Who
Finally, when you return to work or next catch up with friends, be aware that not everyone had a great time. If that’s the case, steer conversations to plans for the new year, rather than recounting all the laughs and scrolling through festive photos.
The Gift of Kindness
The best gift is genuine kindness. Being kind to yourself and others has more value than any present under the tree. It is the most powerful way to lift spirits and create happy memories. This is the true meaning of Christmas.