Think back to your best Christmas ever, what made it so special? Receiving an extravagant gift, giving something special, travelling just to make it home for the holidays, or family memories? There’s no right answer, but I believe if we are totally honest, our best Christmas memories involved special times with family or friends.
One of my fondest memories is of Christmas at my Grandmothers house, whose children, grandchildren (myself included!) all crowded round the table with food that granny seemed to magically produce out of her tiny 1950 cream enamel stove; spending time, talking, listening, laughing. The smell of that kitchen, the warmth of us all packed into the ‘front room’ for a Christmas TV special, and the chill of the air when we went outside to play. I would trade all my Christmas’s to come if I could revisit that day.
So, I’ll ask again, what’s your best Christmas memory, and how does it equate with the Christmas you are planning now? Although people pass, and times change, the message of Christmas, the celebration of Christ’s birth has remained the same underneath all the tinsel and TV ads.
In recent years we’ve seen an increase in the commercialisation of Christmas, driven by money, the need to impress, or the obligation to equal or better last year’s Christmas. Perhaps in affluent times this seemed acceptable; it was fun to buy things, have things, and want things. But that’s just it, they’re just things! What are your values at this time? What are your NEEDS? When you examine it, we have very few needs in life; shelter, food and warmth, and the rest are wants. This year in Cayman we are in our second Christmas season of recession. This time last year, it felt like the economic downturn would be short lived, but we are still reverberating from its effects and 2010 seems understandably uncertain for many people. Therefore, through economic necessity, many of us have had to re-evaluate our perception of Christmas, revisit our values and what’s important at this time; for example, family time and taking time to relax. Here are a few points to consider while planning your festivities:
* Realise you can make your own rules, say ‘no’ and have Christmas the way you want it, and the way your pocket book can afford ! You have the choice and control to have Christmas the way you want it; as an individual or as a family. Advertising and keeping up with the Jones’ is ultimately a pressure we choose to put on ourselves.
* Although you may be unpopular with the children for a short time, so is it worth putting the family into debt just to buy that fancy toy? Think about the bigger picture.
* Identify your priorities, your needs for Christmas, and go from there. Once we have our priorities based on needs, we can make lists, plan and budget.
* A family gathering needn’t be extravagant; ask everyone to bring a plate; people like to contribute! Often the best parties are those where people feel comfortable and relaxed, and a ‘pot-luck- provides the perfect setting.
* If Cayman isn’t your home, maintaining your own rituals from home enables you to feel that Christmas spirit. Your day may be planned around a time to call home; make this part of the fun.
* Do something for someone else. Giving always feels better than receiving so consider volunteering or giving of your time.
* Work out your budget and stick to it. Which events are you going to? Be social but remember this may be a time you want to spend relaxing at home. These times are just as important as ‘doing’.
Often traditions are handed down from generation to generation, but every family can create its own traditions as well. If you’re someone who doesn’t have family traditions or any that you’d like to keep, consider what type of memories you’d like to look back on and create them. If your family has multiple cultural backgrounds, then incorporating those cultural traditions would be the beginning of new traditions and memories. When we think of memories, we usually think back on days of old, remembering the smells, dishes and music. Provide a means of sharing love, laughter, loyalty, unity and a sense of commitment.
If you are on island without family, consider getting together with friends, and have them prepare their favourite holiday dish. Embrace new ideas by trying some Cayman favourites, such as beef, sorrel, and heavy cake; it might not be the holiday that you are used to but different can be just as good !
However you choose to spend your holiday this year, make sure that you create great memories. Above all, be safe, have fun and keep Christmas special!
“Never worry about the size of your Christmas tree. In the eyes of children, they are all 30 feet tall.”
Emma Roberts is a Counsellor with the Employee Assistance Programme of the Cayman Islands. Telephone 949-9559 for a confidential appointment or visit our website, www.eap.ky