Ahhh... the joys of Christmas! Shopping, family, friends, baking, gifts, snow, entertaining, parties, decorations, food... and the list goes on. This time of year should be filled with joy and merriment, but often times, it's dreaded and many people wish it would pass quickly so they can get back to the normalcy of life.
Well, I have a few things about this "holiday season" that I'd like to address.
The first thing is shopping. Even if you didn't procrastinate on shopping for gifts, you probably still have a few last minute things you need to pick up: stocking stuffers, a gift for that last minute relative who decided to come to the family party, groceries, or a bottle of wine for the family member who is hosting you this year... either way, you most likely will be out, battling the crowds, before Christmas day arrives.
It's very easy to get frustrated with the crowds and madness. Everyone is taking up the aisles, people have grumpy looks on their faces and are huffing and puffing at people in their way, no one will move out of the way so you can lean over and grab the one item you came in for, someone cut you off and took the last parking spot that you've had your blinker on for and been waiting for as the previous occupier was backing out, the cashiers are grumpy because, well, they work retail, and shopping takes twice as long just because it's a very busy time of year.
Here is a tip to help you keep a smile on your face and a bounce in your step as you brave the crowds. Understand that there will be lots of people, be patient w/others and give yourself plenty of time. If you go to the store knowing and accepting that it's going to take a while and that there will be tons of people in your way, you will be less likely to be annoyed. Don't go shopping if you have some place to be in 20 minutes. You will just get irritated. Be the person in the aisle who lets someone else go by before you cut them off. Be willing to walk a little ways from the parking lot to the store (if you aren't worried about getting the closest spot that will reduce some stress). And smile at those around you. Who can't use a little Christmas cheer? =)
The next thing I would like to address is family, friend and work get-togethers. If shopping and gift buying wasn't stressful enough, just wait till you host 20 of your closest friends and family. If you've hosted before, you know that it's stressful. You have to make sure your house is clean, food is prepared, entertainment is provided, drinks are available, coordinate who's sleeping where if you are having people stay over night...
If you are hosting, let your guests know where they can find snacks during "non meal" times, get them their first drink and then tell them where they can help themselves for any additional drinks they might want, and even ask for help preparing meals, bringing part of the meal and with cleanup. Don't stress yourself out with making an elaborate meal. The whole point is for your family and friends to get together to celebrate Christmas. If you need to make some frozen pizzas so that everyone has time to visit, then make a pizza. Christmas is not about ham, homemade bread, and pie... it's about celebration. So don't let busyness get in your way.
If you are going to be a guest somewhere, you better be a gracious guest. Offer to bring something, offer to help once you arrive and don't even offer to do dishes... just start doing them after dinner. There is nothing more annoying than entertaining a bunch of guests who just sit around on their duffers while the host/ess does all the work. They are their to "host" not to be a waiter or waitress. And make sure that if you have kids that they are gracious guests, too. Kids learn how to say please and thank-you before they even have their first memory, so no excuses.
Oh and if you don't want to go somewhere, then don't go. Seriously, there is nothing worse than feeling obligated to go somewhere or obligated to invite certain people over. If you don't want to be there, it will show, and then you will just look like a scrooge.
Finally, I wanted to discuss the whole "Happy Holidays" versus "Merry Christmas" situation. Okay, here is the thing. If your intent is to tell someone that you hope they have a good day on December 25th, then you should say "Merry Christmas" as that is what the day is called!!! It's called Christmas Day. Christmas. I get that some people don't celebrate Christmas, and if you know that they don't, then it's absolutely fine (and expected) to say "Happy Holidays" instead of Merry Christmas. If your friend is Jewish, wish them a Happy Hanukkah.
But if you, in good faith, say Merry Christmas and the person doesn't celebrate Christmas then hopefully they will say something and you will know for next time. If someone were to wish me Happy Hanukkah, a holiday that I don't celebrate and one where the only thing I know about it is that there are 12 days of it and something about a candelabra, I certainly would not be offended. I would just be like, "Oh thanks, you too" and then move on with my life. I mean, if someone gets so offended by Merry Christmas that they lash out or get all bent out of shape, then frankly, I'm more amused than sorry that they take things so personally. I mean seriously people, stop being so easily offended. Unless someone is trying to offend you, just kindly tell them what they said offends you and hopefully they will respect that in the future.
Don't get me wrong, I am not saying you wish a "Merry Christmas" to people who are clearly of another faith (sometimes you can tell by certain garments what religion someone belongs to, or sometimes you know b/c that person is a friend of yours). Know your audience. But I am pretty sure that most people will be pretty receptive to "Merry Christmas" and the only reason you hear people saying "Happy Holidays" is because they are afraid of offending someone and getting sued.
So anyway, the most important thing of all is to make sure you enjoy Christmas, New Year's Day and the events surrounding it. If you are stressed, find a way to relax. Ask for help if you feel overwhelmed. And remember the reason we celebrate Christmas!