Monday, December 26, 2005

How to have a stress-free Christmas

It has been my most stress-free Christmas.

I have memories of in-laws rushing about fretting over bread sauce and stuffing and the lot, mum-in-law lamenting that my table was not dressed properly as I did not have any table decorations.

"O! I'll make you one next year."

She hadn't noticed that we have a very narrow table and there is simply no room for decorations.

As a Christian, I know full well that Christmas is about remembering the birth of Jesus and its implications on my personal life. It is also, for me, a celebration of time with loved ones. As someone who had spent several Christmases on my own when I first came to work in this country, Christmas is also a time to share hospitality with those with no family, as a sort of replay of that "no room at the inn" scenario.

Last year, with husband being so ill that Christmas nearly had to be "cancelled", I am thankful that he is in good health this year.

In the run-up to Christmas I have been asked several times, "Are you all ready?"

My answers were variations on the theme of "No, and so what? If things go wrong, things go wrong."

One response to that was, "You are so calm."

And then it suddenly tweaked as to why I seemed so calm.

I realised that a lot of the stress is centred on how the meal would turn out and what we have on the table. People with no money don't worry about these things. To many around the world, the question on Christmas day is not "turkey or goose?", "mince pies or Christmas pudding?", "with or without brandy butter?". It is "Would we have food today? Or tomorrow?".

Another stress comes from "Have we bought all the presents?". I don't think the Wise Men were stressed up about what to bring to Jesus. They brought what was at their disposal. Just as my five-year-old drew little pictures and put them in envelopes he had fashioned out of paper, and wrote "To Mum with Love from ----" and the same "To Dad ...."

Even if we didn't manage to buy presents by Christmas, the shops re-open on Boxing Day. Why buy presents before Christmas when they cost half as much after Christmas? It's not what I receive that matters, it's whether it comes from the heart. Why buy when you could make?

So I realised that I should be thankful that we even have food on the table and a roof over our heads. If we happen to have a bit more to spare, then it's great to be able to celebrate. If not, life goes on.

With this perspective, it became clear that Christmas is not about cooking a meal in a certain way by a certain time to feed x number of people. It is not about how the table looks. It is not about buying and receiving the "right" presents.

It has been a glorious weekend for us, relaxing with family and friends, eating well, but not over-eating.

Bing Crosby sings "And may all your Christmases be white."

I say, "And may all your Christmases be just as stress-free." Enjoy!

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