Every year we have a fantasy of the perfect family Christmas, where in laws, siblings and cousins come together to share the festive spirit and celebrate this magical time of year.
Unfortunately, Christmas is also the time when many families fall out, when stress levels are high, old resentments surface and the host can’t wait for it to be over.
Psychologists believe the reason Christmas rarely follows the Disney ideal is due to a few factors:
Many families that celebrate together often find that the close proximity can be stifling after a while. This is due to the cold weather that keeps many people indoors and the age old wives tales that “two cooks can’t share a kitchen”. Before dinner this can seem magical as everyone has the energy to make an effort and add sparkle to the conversations but once a drink or two has been consumed, along with a heavy meal, tempers can start to fray.
Unless you all have identical tastes there will be some disagreement over how you all relax after a big meal.
The Host’s House
The host is generally expected to cater to everyone’s needs no matter how diverse. From making a cup of tea to giving detailed instructions on how to use the TV remote. This often leaves the host frazzled, allowing for little nuances to escalate. For example, when well-meaning family step in to help it can be frustrating as crockery is placed in the wrong place or the kitchen becomes claustrophobic. This all puts tremendous pressure on the host so they rarely enjoy the day.
There are two extreme types of Christmas people. Type 1 are almost tee total, love to present Nigella like food and embrace carols and all things festive. Type 2 just want to get as full and as drunk as possible from the moment they awake. Everyone has both of these types in one family, especially if in laws are invited. When they come together, type 1 maintain a stiff upper lip while being completely insulted as type 2’s loose tongues from the buck fizz tells them to chill out.
Every parent has a different idea on how to bring up children. You may be super laid back, happy and carefree allowing children to eat on the sofa or play on video games. You sister in law meanwhile may insist on impeccable table manners, no loud laughter and no e numbers. This is when the judgement starts on both parts. In laws will inevitably scold your children if they think they’re misbehaving which in turn annoys you as it is not their place? Other people’s children may drive you insane as they don’t understand the dynamics of your family home. Of course you can’t tell off other’s children as you would your own, so your children end up with a confusing list of do’s and don’ts that you just hope sis in law overhears!
Any family could add more to the list as every family is unique, however there is a solution to solve most of these problems.
It involves neutral ground, outside caterers and space.
Rent a large house, ensure it has space for people to escape, at least two televisions, grounds, and separate living quarters.
Then bring in outside caterers so your mother in law can’t criticise your cooking of the turkey or folding of the napkins. Add a playroom for the rowdy children and brisk winter walks in the countryside and you may find you can endure the perfect family Christmas for a full weekend.