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Getting through Christmas

Man showing stress of Christmas

It's not just family friction that causes problems at Xmas.

Family issues are still there for many (here's more about coping with Christmas), but that's not the only Xmas related problem. Take the word Xmas. As you read this, you might be fuming that I even used the shortened form of the word. Yet the early Christians used it frequently. Here's what Grammarly has to say:

"Chi (or X) is the first letter in the Greek word for Christ. In the early days of the Christian church, Christians used the letter X as a secret symbol to indicate their membership in the church to others. If you know the Greek meaning of X, Xmas and Christmas essentially mean the same thing: Christ + mas = Christmas."

Thanks, Grammarly. Hopefully that's one problem out of the way.

Next, there are dietary problems. If you're a vegan or a vegetarian, the food at Christmas is a nightmare. It's a meat-lovers paradise, and even the Christmas pudding has suet (beef fat) in it. To alleviate dietary stress, here are a few tips. Be assertive; kindly and firmly stick to your nutritional choices. Bring your own, including a slice of Xmas pudding; if they love you, they won't mind. If it's a serve-yourself, you're home and hosed. Hog the roast potatoes and veggies (they're usually cooked in vegetable oil these days), and there's always bread.

Now the vexed question of what to wish people. Merry Christmas? Happy holidays? Season's greetings? Once again, it's Grammarly to the rescue.

"The period from late November until early January is lumped together as "the holiday season." You've got your biggies like Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, and New Year's, plus dates that get not quite so much attention, like Kwanzaa, the Winter Solstice, Boxing Day, and Festivus. With that many holidays crammed into a few weeks, it makes sense to go for the general holiday wish." Grammarly missed Diwali.

For people you don't know very well, a general greeting is probably safest. However, if you know the people you're addressing are celebrating Christmas, "Merry Christmas" is entirely appropriate. If someone wishes you a "Merry Christmas" and you're of another faith, my advice is to take a breath and smile. If you must, you can say, "I don't celebrate Xmas, but I hope you have a good one."

The problem of financial stress is terrible at Xmas. Again be assertive. Don't avoid family occasions or visits with friends because you can't afford gifts. Be honest and tell them you're on a strict budget this year, and you're giving them your love instead.

Trying to teach children the value of small things while Santa on the telly promises them big things is cruel. Ways to ease the pressure are to make a deal with everyone to have a Kris Kringle, one gift only, and under a specific price. You can make your own gifts (although, you probably wouldn't have wanted to leave it this late to do that. Start in January). Charities are fantastic at children's presents, so, if you can, swallow your pride and take advantage of their generosity (with other things like foodstuffs too). If you're not financially constrained – give.

Managing time is a problem. Having to be in two places at once and the sheer exhaustion of having two (or sometimes three) dinners in one day is stressful. Try not to overcommit; also you can visit, but skip the turkey. Once more, you might need to be assertive, but emphasise how much you really want to see them, but that you really can't fit in another meal.

Then there's the ethical problem of wrapping paper. Trying to ignore all the trees killed to provide wrapping paper can be a problem for some. Be a role model by wrapping your own presents in sustainable paper and real string. Don't forget that wrapping in cloth or tea towels might seem like a good idea, but these materials use resources too and aren't always ethically produced.

Let's not forget the usual problems of:

  • Drinking too much
  • Eating too much
  • Trying to figure out how to eat the arch of a candy cane, and
  • Fretting over whether anyone turned the Christmas lights off when you go out, and if not, will they burn the house down?

I wish you Seasons Greetings, Merry Christmas, and Happy Holidays, and I hope you have a precious time with your family and loved ones.

If it's all too much for you, don't forget these marvellous volunteers are always there to listen.

Lifeline Australia - 13 11 14
Mensline Australia - 1300 78 99 78
Beyondblue - 1300 224 636
Suicideline Victoria - 1300 651 251
Suicide Call Back Service - 1300 659 467
Kids Helpline - 1800 551 800
Griefline Community and Family Services - 1300 845 745