For many of us Christmas is the only time of the year when we can all gather together as a family. Unfortunately, what should be a time of celebration can all too easily descend into disharmony and argument as sibling rivalries, personality clashes and past grudges all manifest themselves.
This Christmas, remember that the Festive Season is a time of goodwill to all, and it's not impossible to make the day an enjoyable one simply by employing a little basic psychology.
Everyone's memory plays tricks on them. We all 'remember' that the past was better than our lives are today; it never rained during school summer holidays, our school days were wonderful and every Christmas was always a white one.
Although this nostalgia is actually misplaced, you can use it to your advantage by passing round old photo collections for everyone to 'ooh' and 'ah' over whilst enjoying a glass of Bucks Fizz. You could even start a new family Christmas 'tradition' by asking everyone to bring some of their own photos each year. With a bit of luck, everyone will be so busy strolling down memory lane they'll forget to argue.
Keep Everyone Busy
While you're busy in the kitchen grappling with the turkey, what are your guests doing? If they're all just sitting around in a room drinking alcohol, trouble could be on the cards. You can swerve disaster by simply delegating a few simple, festive jobs. You need a sprig of holly for the Christmas pudding 0151 that's Uncle Fred and the kids occupied out in the garden. The Christmas crackers need to be put on the table — there's something for your mother-in-law to do.
Along with choosing presents, decorations, etc., pick out a really happy, family-friendly film to relax in front of after Christmas dinner. The right film can create a lovely cosy ambience; something with lots of snow, cute cartoon animals and a large dollop of 'ahhh!' usually works well. Avoid anything with political or religious overtones at all costs; 'bland' is the way to go!
Choose your menu with care
Cooking Christmas dinner for 15 (with all the trimmings of course) is always going to be stressful even for the most accomplished host. Well before the big day, make a list of everyone who's coming for dinner and check for allergies, preferences, etc. The last thing you want is to be frantically rummaging for baked beans on toast because you forgot that your brother-in-law turned vegetarian.
Fun and games
Civilised conversation can quickly degenerate into bickering. A good distraction technique is to suggest a singsong, or better still, a karaoke game. This sort of entertainment isn't everyone's cup of tea so don't try to force people into taking part if they are determined not to. Suggest that those party-poopers who don't want to join in could perhaps do the washing-up instead — lo and behold; they're all queuing up to be first on the mike!
Parlour games are another fun way of encouraging people to interact and relax. Charades is a timeless classic and both young and old can join in. Prepare for this by writing down some suitable films, plays, book titles etc on sparkly Christmas card.
There's no doubt that Christmas family get-togethers can be fraught with arguments but hopefully the use of some clever psychology will help yours to be a memorable one for all the right reasons! If your family issues stem a bit too deep, don't hesitate to meet with a psychologist or therapist to learn coping strategies or to figure out ways everyone can best enjoy their time together.