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What I’ve Learned about How to Have a Good Christmas (or at Least Avoid a Bad One)

December 12, 2011 Leave a comment Go to comments

Do you look forward to Christmas every year, or do you dread it? It’s a problematic time of year for many people. It’s supposed to be a happy time when you get together with people you love and give them gifts. But what if you can’t be with the people you want to spend Christmas with? What if you don’t have the money to keep up with gift-giving expectations?

I’m not a big fan of Christmas, but I try not to hate it. It’s going to happen anyway, so I may as well try to enjoy it as much as I can—or at least not be any more miserable than I have to be. Here are some tips I have learned over the years that help me get through the season.

1. Stay in the present.

Unless you need to plan events that will take place on Christmas Day, don’t think ahead to that day if doing so makes you unhappy. Think about the day you are living in, not the one you are dreading. If you spend all of December (or longer) dreading the 25th, then you give yourself lots of miserable days instead of just one. When the day comes, it may not even be that bad (see the following points on how to make Christmas Day better), and you will have made and kept yourself miserable all month for nothing.

2. Focus on the Christmas you are having, not the Christmas you wish you were having.

Each year is a bit different regarding whether Christmas is a happy time or a sad time for me, depending on what is going on in my life. Last Christmas, I had just ended a relationship a few months before, and I was still deep in grief when Christmas came. All I could think about was how good the previous Christmas with my girlfriend and her family had been, and how much I wished I could be with them again. I usually go to visit my sister and her family for New Year’s, so that year I went early and spent Christmas with them too. Still, I felt miserable dwelling on those memories. Eventually I realized that it was silly for me to think so much about the Christmas I wasn’t having that I couldn’t enjoy the Christmas I was having. I did my best to keep focused on who I was with and what was happening around me, and so had less time to think about where I wasn’t. I was able to have a reasably good Christmas.

3. Enjoy the parts of Christmas that you like and ignore the rest.

My Christmas traditions are minimal, but there are a few things I care about: volunteering or donating to some kind of gift drive to make someone else’s Christmas better, attending a dramatic reading of Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol, eating turkey and Turtles, and visiting my sister and her family for New Year’s. I also buy one CD of Christmas music each year. This year, I think it will be Bing Crosby. The only people I give gifts to are my two nieces, and they are old enough now that they are happy with iTunes gift cards. I have a shirt that looks Christmassy, and I enjoy wearing it. It’s flannel and very comfortable and I always get favourable comments when I wear it.

The Christmas Shirt

4. Take control of your Christmas.

If you’re afraid you will have nothing to do Christmas Day (and if that is a problem for you), make your own plans to do something. One year, after being in a relationship for two years, I knew my first Christmas alone again would be rough, so I made plans to fill the day. It was 1999, and the first of the second three Star Wars movies had been released. I had never seen the first three, and I had a single friend, P, who was really into all of those space movies and TV shows. He had recently separated from his wife and he had nothing to do for Christmas either. A day or two before Christmas, I rented the first three Star Wars movies. On Christmas Day, P came over and we pulled the couch in front of the TV, put our feet up and spent the day watching Star Wars. I would ask stupid questions like “So the empire is bad?” and he would look at me as if I were the world’s biggest idiot. It was a long time to sit in front of the TV, but I have now seen the first three Star Wars movies, and I turned what might have been a painful day into a cool story to tell.

5. Find ways to help others.

Helping someone else is an almost sure-fire way to take your mind off yourself. Even if it doesn’t work and you don’t feel better, at least the person you help will benefit. There are always things you can do: help serve a meal at a homeless shelter, help out with a toy drive (or start one), deliver food hampers for your local food bank, or visit a senior who has no family to see over the holidays. Donate to a toy drive, or leave an anonymous gift for someone who might not otherwise receive any. Look around your community to see what is needed. Be creative.

I think this Christmas will be ok for me. I will take my own advice and do my best to make this Christmas a good one.

Be good to each other


  1. Jen
    December 13, 2011 at 8:10 pm

    That is good advice. I am feeling blah about Christmas but I need to just focus on the good and forget the rest.

    • December 14, 2011 at 7:41 pm

      Thanks, Jen. You seem to be doing well at occupying yourself in positive ways.

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