- Holidays and Celebrations
The truth about the Christmas family get-together
A truthful look at the family Christmas get-together
It's that crazy time of year again when women go onto auto-pilot and men walk around the shops scratching their heads wondering what to buy for the lady in their life.
Christmas is emotionally challenging isn't it? Most people love it yet by the time Christmas day arrives we've probably all had a belly full of ear-ache and arguements, decision-making and let-downs. Why do so many people fall out at Christmas? What I mean is, why do so many people do their very best to avoid the annual family get-together, cause mayhem and upset to their partner, only to go to the event anyway like a child that's been made to march all the way there and all the way back? Why is it so hard to sit in other peoples company sometimes, particularly people we don't see very often? Instead of dreading it we should be looking forward to trying to get to know them a little better - it's an opportunity.
This article is a light-hearted look at how most people feel about Christmas but don't really want to say. Read on only if you have a sense of humour and can take a bit of male/female banter!
A great time to people-watch
Christmas brings out both the best and the worst in people. It is interesting to observe a family in action at Christmas, to see who joins in and who slopes off to the shed/attic or takes the dog for a fifty mile walk. Have you ever noticed how all the men seem to sit on their arses whilst the women do all the running around, bringing and fetching, cooking and cleaning? No wonder they all fall asleep, they're either bored or have taken root! And then there's smokers corner - that place someone finds outside for a crafty cigarette and which suddenly becomes more interesting than the waiting room inside, you know, the one with all the chairs around the edge where nothing is happening...
Let's face it, most people like a get-together but not when it's a long drawn-out event and not been very well planned. Some events seem such a mish-mash don't they? I mean those types where not only are the family present but neighbours, friends of friends and the odd gate-crasher who nobody knows but doesn't want to sling out incase it's Uncle Fred just returned from Australia after twenty-five years! Family get-togethers should be for family only, so we can all get re-acquainted. Save the free-for-alls for other times, Christmas and New Year is family time and for many, the only proper holiday they get that fits in with everyone else.
Tolerating Personality Differences
Being amongst family means we have to tolerate each others differences. If you find the children sliding down the bannisters or that great-grandma is on her third sherry and has started her involuntary, yet amusing, farts then so what? Our differences should be celebrated, it's the reason we are all together to discover what contribution we are making/have made to the world, to share progress, good news, not-so-good news and reflect on family members who are no longer present. True, we may have to listen to someone's story for the umpteenth time but maybe someone in the family is hearing it for the first time. True, we may have to sit and observe some family members eyeballing each other like a fight could break out at any moment but isn't it good when maturity and common sense prevents the fisty-cuffs from emerging? Ooooohh the tension!!
It's worse when no-one has thought about entertainment, you know, the type of event where the hosts have decided the guests can make their own entertainment. Ever been to a party where the hosts just don't seem to be present, like permanantly in the kitchen or one of the couple has 'done one', disappeared whilst going for that elusive bottle of milk?
Personally, I don't like those sort of parties - it makes me feel obliged to get everyone talking or at least playing a game - someone has to break the ice! Why do I feel such guilt at times like those? I think I just don't like awkward silences when people are all sat around in a circle as if about to play a game of pass the parcel. I am usually the one who suggests a game and nowadays have even taken to having a quiz with me, (or some memorised games that requires few, if any, props) just incase!
Food, Drink, Pigs and Gannets
And then there's the food and drink. The best parties are the ones where everyone makes a contribution. It's exciting to see what someone brings, literally, to the table. What a fantastic opportunity to show off your culinary talents and to hear all the 'ooohhs' and 'aaahhhs' as you peel off the foil/cling film/tea towel. Beware though - always smell before eating, not everyone is a Delia Smith. Last year I went to a 'do' where a pie smelt a bit iffy but being the polite individual I am, I ate it. Not long after my sister asked if I ate the 'cat shit pie' and explained to my frozen shock-horror face that she was convinced the owner's cat had shat in it before the owner put a crust on (you know how cats like to bury it). It's put me off pie for life!!
With the food and drink there's always the proverbial pig/gannet - the greedy guts who has to try and stuff their face and/or drink the house dry - failing which, they ask if they can have a doggy bag to take home. And worse when they reek of booze and want to grab you under the mistletoe - you knew it was coming when they winked at you from across the waiting room, err living room, sorry. Once the food has been scoffed we tend to form little groups such as the smoker's corner I mentioned earlier, grumpy corner where all the bored people sit and moan, the kitchen resembles a mass experiment that has taken place and is often a hive of activity, the children bounce and run around, the result of too many sweet things, and there is always the life and soul - the one who needs an audience and will do their utmost to get your attention. If you're anything like me you'll find yourself wandering from group to group trying to fit in and never really having a full conversation with anyone, except the person hiding under the stairs who keeps asking if everyone has gone yet?!
The joy of discovering your family
Does anyone take any notice of the youngsters? Family get-together's are a combination of generations, each one failing to understand the other yet making no effort to even try. Basically put, we all get on each others nerves until someone plays peace-maker and bridges the gap to a point where we can begin to relate. Suddenly grandpa's story of war-torn Britain or Olivia's latest dance routine become slightly interesting because we are discovering the person. We realise our family life history is unfolding right in front of us and we also realise that these stories/events actually matter, they are our background: our roots; our ancestory. Off come the i-pod earphones, the hearing aids are turned up, people begin to speak, smile, make eye-contact and even laugh!
So if you've got a family get-together coming up, don't grit your teeth and grin and bear it - even Scrooge realised the importance of love/joy/family in the end. Take from it what you can but don't just take - make sure you give something too even if it is just yourself, your prescence. An absent family member is a bit questionable - why are they not there? Why do some people prefer to go alone and leave their boring anti-social partner back at home? For goodness sake, it's just one day! How many times have you known people to go to a 'do' almost kicking and screaming yet they come away and have the cheek to say, 'I really enjoyed that!'?
It's not always over when you leave...
Parties - don't you just love 'em? If you think the beginning is hard, you know, walking in, making an entrance then the leaving can be just as difficult. If Uncle Sid didn't get you with the mistletoe earlier, you can bet your bottom dollar he'll get you as you leave - uugh! Or what about that sloppy kiss from granny - you'd think she'd put her teeth in just for Christmas wouldn't you? Then there's the inevitable queue at the door to leave because once you announce you are going, suddenly everyone else decides they are leaving too! And at Christmas you can't just make a quick exit, you have to kiss and hug everyone, tell them how great it was to see them and how much you are looking forward to next year (as if!) this process can take about half an hour. Remember you must thank the host and hostess enormously despite the fact you hardly ever saw them, often had to top up your own wine and you became the entertainment because they couldn't be bothered! What a farce, what a show full of pretence and back-stabbing - you don't believe me, right?
What about the going home? That's when the truth comes out. The time between leaving the party and entering your own house when you bitch to your partner about how short so-and-so's dress was or how you didn't get a chicken leg because some greedy git stashed them in a doggy bag for their lunch tomorrow. The time when you complain about the rubbish gift you received and how it's going straight in the bin and how much you really wanted to tell your step-sibling to go and disappear up their own arse! It's all part of being British isn't it - we all love a really good old moan. I don't think we are happy unless we are moaning but aren't we all so polite about it too? Isn't it funny how we can be muttering away under our breath yet someone comes along and asks if we are ok and we reply, 'Yes, fine thanks.', smile sweetly and nod in affirmation, 'til their back is turned....
Women put the love into Christmas
I think it's women that make Christmas what it is. Agreed, many of them go way over the top buying food and drink as if there were a war on - why, when the shops only shut for twenty-four hours? They fuss, they get stressed, they ball and shout if anyone dare ask them what's wrong and they feel they have to conquer the world all by themselves - all that on top of working and juggling the household chores (come on men, we all know it's mainly women that do everything around the home...) They write the cards, they wrap the presents, they put the love into Christmas. If left to men Christmas would probably be spent down the boozer, sport on the telly followed by a massive snowball fight, a trip to A & E or worse, the police station in that embarrassing Christmas jumper from the mother-in-law.
So personally, I prefer the female Christmas; the stressful one where we all pretend we're having a fab time but are absolutely knackered underneath. It doesn't hurt to bring a bit of cheer and everyone responds to love and laughter. Without the fuss what a dull world it would be, we must all make an effort. Of course, I've generalised here on the male/female debate - there are exceptions both sides. That's why men carve the turkey - it's the only other bird they will ever lay their hands on and be able to get away with it.
However you spend your Christmas I hope you have a fantastic time and would like to wish everyone all the best and a Happy New Year.