As I write this blog, I am sitting in my kitchen steaming a homemade Christmas pudding. It takes 8 hours to cook, so I have plenty of time to get into festive mood and reflect on my personal thoughts on this seasonal celebration. I feel privileged that my blog will be published on December 25th – even though I know that most people will be too busy to read it – but if you do get a moment, please accept this gift with love.
Of course not everybody recognises or celebrates Christmas in the same way but rituals and traditions are an important part of many cultures. Whether part of a religious practice or not, Christmas time can provide a sense of meaning and purpose, allowing people to feel part of a wider community and facilitating opportunities for strengthening social connections between individuals and families that may otherwise lapse with the pressures of daily life. The festive holiday is also an opportunity to take a few days off to relax, recharge and reflect, perhaps setting our New Years’ resolutions.
One of our family traditions at Christmas is for family and partners to stir the Christmas cake / pudding mixture and make a wish. This year I felt a tinge of sadness as it is the first time we haven’t managed to follow tradition due to the busyness of work and personal commitments. As our children’s partners have become part of our extended family they have joined in with this tradition and although I wonder if they consider it a little child-like, I think they secretly enjoy it! Although it is part of the child-like, magical aspect of making a Christmas wish, stirring the pudding allows me to focus on my intention, so this year I set the ‘positive intention’ for the whole family for a happy and healthy festive season and New Year.
As a new grandma, I look forward to reliving such special family traditions that we all look back on with fondness: the Christmas Eve bedtime storybook, stockings on the bed post and leaving a mince pie and tot of whisky for Santa plus a carrot for the reindeer. (In later years we added a tot of something for Mrs Santa too – in the interest of equality of course!). The only part I won’t miss is the late nights waiting for over-excited children to fall asleep before Santa could have his tipple, leave a few crumbs and deliver his presents without being seen.
For many people the festive season can be a stressful and expensive time and not just in buying gifts. Why is it that the kitchen refurb, hall decoration and new carpet must be finished before Christmas?
Finding the best presents, preparing the perfect meal, rushing around to get it all done in time for the big day and managing family tensions can be tough. Spending can easily get out of hand and Christmas can become more of a commercial exercise. Whilst exchanging presents is an enjoyable activity and giving / generosity can improve happiness levels for both parties (and charity shops benefit from an influx of unwanted presents), Christmas can be incredibly wasteful.
Giving time and skills to each other, doing acts of kindness and having fun with others can have much greater value and meaning than exchanging ‘stuff’.
For some, Christmas can be a sad occasion, reminding them of absent friends and family, current financial difficulties and unhappy memories. Winter bugs and falls can add to the pressures so giving yourself the gift of self-care is really important.
The best present you receive this Christmas could be your gift to yourself
Just take a moment to ask yourself:
· What is the best gift I could give to myself today?
Although your first answer might be a month in Barbados, a bottle of whisky or large slice of chocolate cake…if you have young children it’s probably something like Mrs. Large (the elephant) in Just 5 Minutes Peace. But if it is the latter savour and enjoy it, you can resume healthy eating patterns tomorrow! A really nourishing, healthy meal is also a great way to treat yourself. Do notice your language around treats though: often what you think of as a treat is the something that harms rather than heals.
It’s important that this gift to yourself is achievable and manageable right now, not something that requires preparation or is put off until you have more time: it could be as simple as giving yourself permission to ‘not do anything’…to take a breath… rest….have a hot bath… meditate…look out of the window… go for a walk.
It doesn’t have to be anything time consuming or too challenging, just something simple that you enjoy – a way to treat yourself at Christmas, or something to include as one of your New Year resolutions.
The benefits of generosity, altruism and kindness to others on wellbeing are well documented, but self-kindness can be neglected: giving yourself the gift of self-care today could be the best Christmas present you receive this season.
And please do let me know the gifts you choose to give yourself!