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A Grinch’s guide to making this the merriest festive season ever

A Grinch’s guide to making this the merriest festive season ever

Here are six proven ways to make sure you’ll make the most of Yule.

“When I was little, my uncle would throw a big Christmas Eve party every year … years went on, cousins grew up, families moved away, and sometimes Christmas lunch was more of a finger food affair.”

When I was little, my uncle would throw a big Christmas Eve party every year. I remember seeing cousins from all over the country, loads of presents, and a huge tree.

I would fall asleep in the car on the way home, and stumble into bed before Father Christmas arrived.

Christmas morning meant waking up before sunrise, staring at the presents under the tree, and breathing loudly outside my parents’ bedroom door until they got the hint.

In our pyjamas, we’d open presents before going to church. I always had a special dress to wear.

We’d have Christmas lunch with mom’s side of the family (Christmas Eve was with dad’s side of the family.)

This was a full-on sit-down affair with every type of meat and all the festive puddings. If you were lucky, you’d find a shiny 10-cent piece in your Christmas pudding.

The years went on, cousins grew up, families moved away, and sometimes Christmas lunch was more of a finger food affair (only when granny wasn’t hosting.)

Christmas shrunk as I grew.

Then, slowly, Christmas began to feel stressful. I thrive on the chaos of Christmas shopping and love wrapping presents. The stress crept in as I tried to recreate the magical feeling of Christmas from my childhood.

Once I’d moved into a big enough home, I started to host a Christmas Eve party for my immediate family and a few friends.

I still felt stressed, like I needed everyone to have the best possible time for me to feel happy. Everything needed to be perfect.

Eventually, I had a house, with a big dining room table and a pool. I had a little family of my own with a partner, a step-kid, and a couple of pets.

One year, I decided to host Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day. That was a mistake. It’s expensive and exhausting trying to control the whole holiday season.

But things change. Last year found me single and living in a flat. It wasn’t easy to reinvent the way I celebrate the holiday season, but it was probably the most relaxing Christmas I’ve ever had.

Based on what I’ve learnt over the years, here are a few survival techniques for holiday season

1. Rekindle the excitement

Last year, I decided to start over with my Christmas décor. Living alone in my 20s was different, I had a tiny tree with tiny decorations.

In my 30s I lived with my brother and then my ex. Christmas trees were bigger, but decorations were shared.

Last year I decided to buy a tall (fake) tree and sparkly new baubles, all to a colour scheme. This year I ‘m excited to put up my gorgeous tree.

Find a way to feel more excited about the holidays yourself, even if that involves planning a trip away from the usual festivities.

2. Make a new tradition

The Day of Goodwill, also known as Boxing Day, is a very underutilised day, in my opinion. Years ago, I decided to host a little Boxing Day picnic. It’s a great way to see people you couldn’t manage to see over Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.

Tell people to bring leftovers for a potluck-style feast. It took some pressure off me when I felt stretched too tight with trying to see everyone. It’s become my own little tradition now.

Make a new tradition that makes sense to you, especially if makes life easier.

3. Give yourself a silent night, day, or moment

It’s tempting to fill every minute of the holiday season with events and people. Last year, I spent Christmas Eve alone.

I poured myself a non-alcoholic gin and tonic, and paired it with a gingerbread house cookie. With the Christmas tree lights twinkling, I wrapped my presents in matching paper and felt content.

Even if you don’t live alone, take some quiet time these holidays.

4. Make it same-same, but different

I love a traditional Christmas lunch, but I also love a real South African Christmas day. Everything changed when I realised I could roast lamb on the braai.

Then I discovered Bob Dylan’s Christmas album. Christmas doesn’t have to be about sweating over the stove and listening to Boney M. Find your own way to celebrate Christmas with a difference.

5. Share the hard work

I’ve spent too many holidays trying to be the ‘hostess with the mostest’. I’ve since realised that everyone has a signature dish they would love to bring – homemade or bought at Woolies.

And when someone offers to help with the dishes or clean up the kitchen, they might just want an excuse to step away from the party.

It’s okay to let someone else do some of the work. And, finally …

6. Be a Grinch if you need to be

You don’t need to go to every party, or buy everyone a present.

You don’t need to do anything that will increase your stress, physically, financially, or mentally.

Just celebrate Christmas your way, and have a merry, happy, holiday season!

Sharon Paine

Change expert, Sharon Paine, believes that the big change equals big opportunity.

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