Christmas lurks just around the corner, even though it feels like you’ve hardly taken down last year’s tree.
For some people it is a time of joy and festivity, but for many others it’s more like being ambushed. Especially if you have to work until the day before, and you’re exhausted by the time the 25th rolls around.
Here’s what you can do to defend yourself this year, and to avoid repeating last year’s disasters.
1. Go away
This is an extreme measure, but if last year’s Christmas dinner still haunts you in your dreams, it might be a solution. Round up your immediate family (or just go on your own) and go and stay somewhere quiet, such as on a farm.
Tell everyone now that you will be doing this, so that it doesn’t come as a surprise two days before Christmas. You will be appreciated all the more next year if you are in town.
2. Do the shopping now.
In December shopping malls are a recipe for disaster and anxiety. Take a day’s leave now, and hit the shops on a quiet Tuesday or Wednesday when you have the whole place to yourself, and you can make good (and not too expensive choices).
Or else do the online shopping thing and have everything delivered to your door - even better.
3. Limit the houseguests
Houseguests, however much we like the people in question, are tiring. If you have your sister and your cousin and their extended families descending on you (with kids and the dog in tow), make sure it isn’t for more than a night or two.
Some guests pitch in and help out, and others sit and wait to be served. Be firm, and say when your house is full already. Alternatively, specify that you can only do two nights. Say you have other guests coming – even if you don’t. Sometimes a white lie is excusable if it saves your sanity.
4. Invite an outsider to the Christmas lunch
Families don’t bicker so readily about old family squabbles if there is a friend or a neighbour present. Even the worst grudge-bearer usually has a bit of pride when it comes to private matters such as Granny’s will. Strangers can be absolute saviours at times of family tension.
5. Share the cooking.
It’s too much for one person to do. Share it out – both the cooking and the costs. Food is hellishly expensive and it’s only right that everyone contributes something. Those who can’t cook can bring drinks and chips and snacks.
6. Hide the credit card
Last-minute purchases are often made in desperation – on the credit card. Make a decision now that your credit card is only for emergencies, such as when the engine of the car explodes, and not for incidental Christmas shopping that quickly adds up to thousands. It’s easy to get caught up in the buying frenzy that is Christmas – and you can be sure you will feel it in January and February.