Have a holly, jolly Christmas,
It’s the best time of the year
I don’t know if there’ll be snow,
But have a cup of cheer.
Have a holly, jolly Christmas,
And when you walk down the street
Say hello to friends you know
And everyone you meet.

The lyrics to one of the many carols that will be played and sung over the next 25 days. Don’t get me wrong; I love Christmas and the beauty that it beholds. For us, it is especially treasured because it is such a significant time in the Christian calendar and I love what the true meaning of Christmas can do in the hearts of so many. It indeed is a magical time of year. And, with eleven grandchildren, it has become something even more magical for Rob and I. We get the pleasure of seeing our grandchildren experience Christmas in all of its wonder…. and when everyone goes home, we get to put our feet up and marvel at the beauty of life. Being a grandparent is so sweet.

But, I realise that Christmas can be tough for many reasons, some which I mentioned in last weeks article and others that I will address today including challenging family members. There seems to be one in every family, and for some, there are a couple. Sometimes it’s personalities that just don’t mix, for whatever reason the sister-in-laws are like oil and water. Or, maybe it’s the brothers who have never seen eye-to-eye. Or, a critical mother-in-law who sneaks around and in her quiet comments lets you know that you just never quite get it right. It could be the taste of the gravy, the way the kids behave, the way the kids are dressed or how you wrap your gifts. She’s never happy. Then, of course, there’s always the story of the uncle or aunt who gets into the grog a little too heavy and spends the afternoon/evening slurring the words of ‘Chestnuts roasting on an open fire’ or ‘Jingle Bells’. And,  they never seem to remember that they’ve been wearing the silly paper hat from the Christmas cracker until about 8 pm.
Oh, the joy of family in all it’s colour. The laughter, the sideways comments, the looks and the frustration. I guess we can all breath a sigh of relief knowing that we all deal with this in some way, shape or form. It doesn’t make it any easier, but I guess it helps us, in some way, to know that we aren’t alone.
So, how do you prepare yourself for the uncomfortable conversations, the potential fights and the hours of joyous, momentous fun?

1. Create a fun email invitation:

If you are hosting Christmas this year, create an invitation to everyone and send it via Social Media, so you don’t miss anyone. For those who aren’t on Social Media generate an email version as well. In the invitation set your boundaries. Be a little tongue and cheek if there are some clear conversations you don’t want around the table. Conversations like: people who support opposing teams – we don’t want that conversation to unfold, or recent decisions made by the gov’t or organic food vs big supermarket purchases… these are just to name a few). Be specific and very clear; this will avoid drama around the table.
Get everyone to RSVP to the invitation with a tick box committing to the ‘no go’ conversation places, so the conversation doesn’t veer into a minefield of divisive issues.

2. Create conversation cards:

Conversation cards are a great way to steer the conversation from ‘danger zones’. You can buy these cards at any bookstore, or you can make them yourselves. This is a great way to get the kids involved and to get to know one another in a deeper, more engaging way. Some conversation card suggestions are: What is your favourite food? If you could travel anywhere in the world where would you go and why? How many siblings do you have? If you could have any pet, what would it be? What is one thing you wish people knew about you? What is the most outrageous thing you’ve ever done? Who do you most admire in life?

3. Create Decoys: 

If (for example) your mother-in-law is the challenge then create decoys that will keep you safe. Let your partner or your older kids know that grandma can sometimes tip Mum over the edge, especially when you’re trying to cater for a household of people. So, if you see her latching onto me deploy your skillset and navigate her away through conversation, games or engagement. Sometimes sister-in-laws can do this for one another which keeps the peace and harmony in the home.

4. Create a schedule:

Plan the day out so not much is left to ‘happenstance’. With a good plan in place, i.e., lunch starts at 1 pm followed by pool or family walk on the beach or games then dessert, nap time (if that’s part of the day), etc. This way, everyone knows what’s happening and will abide by your rules. If it’s not at your house and you’re being hosted then make sure you know their game plan and stick to it.

5. Breath it all in:

Christmas is a big day, and it is exhausting, especially with little ones, but we can enjoy it. If you’re the one who has problems with the family perhaps you can let it go for a day. Lay it all down and for the sake of the kids and the greater family let the day unfold in a way that will be memorable for good things rather than the awkwardness or the fight that so-and-so had. Trust me, it’s so worth it, and everyone will thank you for it.
And, in closing remember the closing words to Holly Jolly Christmas and grab some mistletoe and let love and light jingle through your homes.
Oh, ho, the mistletoe
Is hung where you can see,
Somebody waits for you,
Kiss her once for me.
Have a holly jolly Christmas,
And in case you didn’t hear,
Oh by golly, have a holly jolly Christmas this year
Oh, ho,
Much love,