Christmas Matters

Every year I vow to make Christmas easier, simpler - less stressful.

Have I ever? One year I tried forgetting Christmas here in the UK and spent it in the Canary Islands. It was quite extraordinary really. Christmas day was spent around the pool. The staff brought round 'Christmas' cake at various intervals (not the fruit stuff but madeira cake) and Santa Claus arrived on the beach by parachute. The hotel was full of people trying to get away from the stress of the season. All regretted leaving families but felt the need to just 'get away'. The guy in the next room spent every Christmas away from his wife and family. His wife, children and grandchildren loved to do the whole British Christmas experience - he just wanted time to chill out and spent a good deal of his time alone. He didn't feel this was extraordinary at all!

One thing that did strike me was the friendliness and service from the hotel staff. How much holiday did they get? - they all seemed to be working so hard. I asked the receptionist. He explained that they had no concept of a long Christmas holiday. In fact the only time they did not work was Christmas Eve when they were given 24 hours leave from that afternoon to attend Christmas Mass with family and then to eat a celebratory meal with family and friends. No presents were exchanged - this happened on the Feast of the Epiphany 6 January when traditionally the wise men had brought their gifts to Jesus - and even then the presents to each other were single and modest. On Christmas day all staff had returned to work by late afternoon - as did all workers throughout the island.

There was a lot to think about as we picked up our champagne at breakfast and then spent the day smothered in sun cream, snoozing in the sun.

I still love Christmas and the Christian celebrations which remind us of its true meaning. It's the shopping that gets me down. And to be quite honest I hadn't managed to avoid this - I just had to be more organised and distribute presents to friends and family well in advance of travelling to warmer climes. I suppose the problem is I like giving presents to people - although I spend a good deal of time worrying about their appropriateness. So - I don't have a formula for present giving but I do try to cut down on spending without appearing to be scrooge, I try to support charities with what I buy, I try to simplify the shopping process, I try to begin the process early. And all you can do is try!

Am I correct in thinking that Christmas shopping still falls largely to the female of the species? Is it just women who begin worrying in February about buying for the children or grandchildren. Is it the female mind that sees something in June which would be 'perfect' for Aunt Mathilda at Christmas? The internet offers wonderful opportunities to ease the pressure on shopping and having moved from a bustling city to a small island last year where choice is very limited this is a growing activity, not to say obsession in our household.

But is this the way Christmas has to be for us?

Lois Reeve has been a personal and careers adviser for twenty years. She coaches individuals to achieve work related goals.

Lifelong interest in the female perspective on all issues. Looking to create a discussion forum on the web with a free ezine to introduce topics of interest to the fastest growing community on the web - females!


Lois Reeve