We’re into the New Year and the dust has settled a little, but who else is suffering from post-festive season fatigue? I went home to Sydney, Australia to spend Christmas with the family (my in-laws and mine) for the first time in four years, flying solo with two kids and 15kg of presents. I survived, but learned a few life lessons along the way…
1. We have enough. We all love giving children presents, but we can experience that same joy with a hell of a lot less stuff. I’m revealing my age here, but I still remember the Punky Brewster doll I had when I was six – because I got one major present from my folks at Xmas and it was pretty darn special. If the frenzied present-opening rituals I saw this year are anything to go by, I doubt kids will remember much of their haul in 30 years’ time.
2. And without going full Grinch, nothing brings the absurdity of mass gift-giving into focus than the exercise of hauling presents around the world, and receiving more than you can carry back. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been one of the world’s greatest consumers, but even I was a little horrified.
3. If you’re staying with family, know your limits. You want to make it brief enough so that you enjoy each other’s company, but not so long that you’re seconds away from throttling somebody (or being throttled.)
4. It just ain’t Christmas without a family feud. Some families are more high-functioning than others, and life would be dull without a few fireworks. What’s important is that you still love each other at the end of the day – and have the pleasure of walking away from each other at the end of the day.
5. Make an effort – family gatherings can be fraught, but everyone does have to step up a little and be the best version of themselves for a shot at a really good shebang. Talk to the relatives you don’t know very well – they might surprise you! Give that guy who was a real jerk to you at the last family reunion a clean slate – people change.
6. Don’t get sucked into the double-whammy celebration: this is a tricky one, with in-laws and blended families all jostling for face time, but attempting more than one ‘do in one day will only lead to tears. Yours and the kids’. Your clan might have to come to an agreement to stagger the gatherings over different days if your presence is required. If they can’t, know when to bow out.
7. Screw tradition. Let’s be honest: nobody really likes turkey. It’s a dry bird. Order a platter of plump prawns; have a chilled-out barbecue; say no to the mince pies (because nobody really likes those either) and do what suits you for your next family feast.
8. And as for those New Year’s Resolutions? Let’s rebrand them as life goals. Because change isn’t going to happen in one big moment – be kind to yourself and keep on going.
Good luck out there if you’re about to go for round two with Chinese New Year!
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