Raise your hand if you've been struggling with getting into the Christmas festive spirit as an adult! I think most of us have been there at one point or another and most of us probably tried to blame it on external factor when our expectation constanlty fell short. I know it's a recurrent theme in expat communities in India. But to be fair, I think we all have dealt with this feeling something isn't right with Christmas as an adult, no matter where we live, yes even if we stayed in our home town all our life! It's probably because we try too hard recreating traditions that made sense when we were kids but not so much when we are the adult having to work toward recreating that magic. There will always be a point in any adult's life when it'll be time to just make new traditions for Christmas.
It's unavoidable, and the longer you resist it, the harder you are going to make it on yourself. Trust me I speak from experience. I moved to India in November 2003 at the ripe age of 24, and even though I experienced a few Christmases as an adult before that move, I don't think I really realised that the reason everything fell flat, was that I had unrealistic expectations of what Christmas should be. I spent years half mourning my childhood Christmases and half trying to recreate them at all cost, albeit with slight modifications. No matter how hard I tried to recreate fancy Christmas dinners, I found that all it left me feeling was being cranky and tired. Over the years, I realised that it's probably how my parents and grandparents felt planning a Christmas feast for lunch or dinner. As a kid, I just remember the table decorations, the party food, and the opening the gifts afterwards. I was blissfully unaware of the amount of work that went into making that day happen. And my grand parents idea of what goes into a Christmas feast was probably already a LOT different than my parent's, and they all had sets of social expectations to sort of abide to that fortunately I am free of in my neck of the wood. That said, you don't have to move half accross the globe to have a merry, uncompliocated, fuss free Christmas. You just have to make your happiness your priority and be brave enough to chunk all the festive traditions that no longer make sense in your life. Your kids will not know any better, trust me on that. They will just remember the fun and magic you deliver no matter what form it comes it. They have no way of knowing what YOU grew up with, they can't compare your childhood memories to theirs. What they will pick up on as they get older is how grumpy sticking to some traditions will make you. Honestly by the time I was 12-13 years old, I noticed that my whole family was really going through the motion of it all because "That's what you are supposed to do on Christmas day". I probably internalised this idea that Christmas is supposed to be work, that you are supposed to put tons of effort into it around that age. Let that go! All those crazy ideas that you need to sacrifice your own comfort and happiness for the sake of a festival. This year, dare to make new traditions for Christmas. Traditions that are fun for you, and make sense to you. The first step toward that epiphany for me was when we decided to go out in the evening to watch the pretty lights around our neighbourhood while drinking Starbucks Christmas coffee. Discovering I could feel relaxed and not have to cook! What a concept! The year after that the latest Starwars movie came out on Christmas day, it was "The Force Awakens" and that's when our new family tradition started and still goes on : Every Christmas, we go watch a movie as a family, there isn't formal gifts exchanged anymore, we gift ourselves a fun family outing and eat lunch or dinner outside, after or before the movie screening. I also go out to buy croissants and cake for breakfast on Christmas day and that's about it. Nobody is tired, or grumpy, there are no humongous amount of dishes piling up in the sink and dishwasher, and no pressure to be social at all. I'm not saying that's what everyone should do, but that it's what worked for us. Christmas doesn't have to be about a super fancy home cooked feast and tons of guests, and it certainly not have to be about finding the perfect gift for everyone in your family. It can be something completely different, as long as you are HAPPY and RELAXED! If you don't have the energy for anything but a Christmas "high tea" with store bought pastries, then by all means go for it! That will end up being the perfect Christmas for you and that is what matters in the end. But, you have to give yourself permission to set yourself free and make your own Christmas traditions as you go. They might also change over time, and that is ok too. This year we added watching Christmas movies all through December as a family and eat take out food in front of the TV while watching them, and yup! We will still go out on Christmas day to watch a movie.