Whether you’re a gentle lover of tinsel and fairy lights or a full-blown Christmas tragic pressured every night to find a creative spot for your Elf, Christmas is a time of year that brings many reflective moments and emotion. With the heavily commercialised Santa appearances, the excessive amount of toy and gadget brochures that land in your letter box and the piercing carols that repeatedly hum over store speakers and occasionally make a stop on your favourite radio station, Christmas really is a time of year that we have no choice but to embrace. It is through experiences and perspective, that I realise Christmas for me wouldn’t be Christmas if I didn’t have my family. As a Millennial, what does Christmas mean to you and how have traditions formed or transformed in your family?
Being a parent at Christmas time trumps the years before (sorry parents). It wasn’t until I had my own family that I cherished Christmas to an even deeper level. I remember so vividly the first Christmas where the focus shifted to my first-born. It was immense happiness, nothing could top it! I remember waking up before him and he had no idea what was going on, but I did and that’s all that mattered. I remember then waking up two years later to my three kiddies and feeling that immense happiness amplified. The love that I felt was complete fulfilment. Nothing was missing and nothing could top it. My kiddies were healthy and happy and as a family, we had each other. And yes, every year I am that partner and parent that gets a matching item for us to wear on Christmas Eve or Christmas day.
Christmas is a tradition that is spent differently amongst families and cultures. Family comes together, we go crazy not only with gifts but love and it is the love and the celebration that always stands out. It’s the memories created over the Christmas period that can be recalled years later over a materialistic item received. As a parent, I appreciate the generosity of love received from our extended family but I also remember spending hours last Christmas opening presents and for babies that couldn’t open the gifts themselves, it was sitting down and unwrapping for them. I remember writing down a ‘thank you’ list so I could remember who gave what present to what child and so on. While my memories are happy and joyous ones; the experiences I have dealt with this year, puts all of that into perspective.
This year in Australia, same-sex marriage was given an almighty YES. Families that were not previously recognised legally as a family and/or partnership will be celebrating their first Christmas knowing they have the same rights as any other couple and nuclear family. Children growing up in these families will start to know no different. There are also families that will spend their first Christmas with their first-born child; a Christmas that is fulfilled more than any celebration earlier. There are couples that have gone through round after round of fertility treatments to have their first Christmas as a family; a milestone of making memories they may have thought were out of reach.
There’s also the heart-breaking moments of the holiday season. The season is beautiful but sometimes and for some people it can hurt. It’s messy, confusing and complex. It’s a reflective period on the year that unfolded. It’s celebrating the milestones and successes while facing up to and accepting all the failures, mistakes and total f*** ups. There’s a rollercoaster of emotions and seeing other functioning families can be painful. There’s families that will celebrate their first Christmas grieving the loss of a loved one. The picture-perfect idea of Christmas may not be. There’s upset and anger that is result of immense pain. You go from extreme excitement of counting down the days on an advent calendar to realising you’re one chocolate closer to Christmas Day and you aren’t ready to face it just yet.
Christmas comes around once a year, it’s important to make the most of it. If you’re wanting to start Christmas traditions with your family, try these:
- DIY Bon-Bons with a special message to your loved ones highlighting all their successes over the year
- Christmas Eve box – create a fun box with matching pyjamas, a movie, a book, treats for you and your children and a carrot and some biscuits that can be put out for Santa and his reindeer
- Write letters to Santa using Australia Post
- Start an ornament collection as a family so over the years you will have a Christmas tree filled with memories
- The Elf on the Shelf
- Christmas Light looking
- Carols by Candlelight
- Give back – use this time of year to collect any clothing or toys that you no longer wear or need and drop them into a charitable organisation
If this Christmas is a confusing one, you may relate to these scenarios. Know you aren’t alone:
- You’re coming up to your first Christmas after a loss of a friend or family member.
- You will be juggling Christmas across multiple families.
- You won’t be celebrating Christmas in your usual family traditional way.
- You are expected to attend multiple celebrations and don’t know how to say no.
- You don’t want to do what the rest of your family is doing.
- You have a limited budget and may not be able to afford presents for everyone.
- You want your children to understand Christmas is more than just presents.
- You may have to spend time with someone who you don’t get along with.
Tips for surviving Christmas:
- Spend Christmas day the way you and your immediate family want to. This is your day before anyone else’s.
- Spend time on fun family traditions as these can create bigger memories than an expensive gift.
- Allow children to be children and expect that they may be overwhelmed or get tired and irritable. They are kids!
- Children will want to play with their new toys, have them built or batteries inserted to reduce time away from using their toys.
- Create family traditions.
- Always be gracious in receiving a gift (even if it’s not what you had hoped for, or do not like it).
- Contact family and friends if things may be getting too hard.
- Connect with your networks and people around you to ensure everyone is included and has a place and home to be.
- Let family know what you can do and what your limitations are.
- Make peace with the year that has been.
- Allow kids to feel free to have fun without having to worry about adult issues and conflicts.
- If invited to a Christmas gathering, offer to take a plate of food to help the host.
- Volunteer to help serve Christmas Day lunch with a charitable organisation.
- Attend community celebrations such as Carols by Candlelight.
- Tell your loved ones that you love them.
So, if you’ve had a year of happiness or a year from hell and are hurting this holiday period, for any reason, know I’m with you. Together we’ve got this!