I love Christmas.

Growing up in a Hindu family in Canada, the holiday season hasn’t always involved turkey or a tree or midnight mass, although there have been some years where we’ve broken our own traditions to embrace the “Christian” ones. And while we used to exchange presents when I was younger and there were lots of kids in our very big extended family, we’ve slowly phased this ritual out as we’ve grown older.

So my Christmases as you can see, have never been very Christmassy in the traditional sense. And yet I love the way I feel when December rolls around. Gushy and sentimental! I see the holiday season finding a way to bring out the generosity and compassion in people. For a short while, all the problems in the world are forgotten, and people come together to celebrate all that’s right.

However, during this time of the year, I’m also reminded that there’s another side to Christmas. Not everyone feels as I do. I’ve come to realise that for many, growing up in a society where Christmas customs are very much indoctrinated into their homes, are actually a huge source of financial and emotional stress.

And there lies the dichotomy. What should be, and is a joyous time for some, is in fact a terrible time for many others.

The biggest source of stress? Money!

The pressure one feels to entertain others with lavish spreads, to fill their homes with extravagant decorations, to travel to see family, and especially splurge on gifts is enough to break the bank and one’s sanity.

So I find myself asking why people do it. Why is it that people are so easily coaxed into dolling out cash and slapping down the plastic card during this time of year, especially when they’re not sure they can even afford to? Whose love and approval are they seeking? Whose expectations are they trying to live up to? Have the considered the worst that could happen if they went “lean” during the festive season?

If you’re feeling dread during this time of year, you’re not alone. If you easily get swept in by all the music and ambience only to feel “Ho. Ho. Ho” and then say “Oh no!” come January, there are millions just like you.

But know this. You don’t have to cave into the Christmas chaos and be full of remorse. How you forge through this festive season is fully in your control.

 

So this season, I want to invite you to take the “Sanity over Santa” pledge.

Pledge that you won’t go silly broke or rack up any sort of debt this Christmas.

If you’re like me and are instinctively emotionally driven, this time of year can be dangerous. It’s very easy to get caught up in the Christmas spirit and spend loads of cash, often borrowed.

But remember that Christmas is not about the garlands, the tree or a feast. It’s definitely not about the presents!! I know you know this, so stop caving into the idea that these things will make you happier, more respected or more loved.

I can promise you that the people who care about you and whose opinions matter would not want you to feel sick and stressed because you’re breaking the bank to live up to some grandiose standard or to buy them something that they can buy for themselves!

What they value is the authentic you in their life. So give them that. Give them your time, your companionship and your support.

If you want to buy someone a present by all means go for it, but remember it’s the consideration behind the gesture that matters, not the actual price tag. Just don’t lose yourself and jeopardise your financial health because of it. Your loved ones will respect you for it.

Pledge that you will mold Christmas to your values and you won’t mold your values to Christmas.

Christmas is what you make of it. There are no hard and fast rules of how it should be. There’s no Christmas police that will ticket you if you don’t cook a ginormous feast or buy every family member and colleague a present. So if that nosey relative or neighbour imposes their view of how you should run the holiday season ignore them. It’s not personal.

What makes sense for someone else may not make sense for you. What they value, you may not. Do what feels intrinsically right and what will give you peace of mind. You won’t go wrong.

Pledge that you’ll allow others to do the same without judgment.

Just as you may be grappling with living up to the holiday traditions, so are many close to you. It’s just that they don’t feel comfortable discussing it either.

So, “be the change you want to see”, and lead by example. When you take the first step in letting go of pretenses and expectations, you’re actually giving others permission to do the same. It’s very liberating for everyone and they’ll thank you for it.

 

Wishing you and your loved ones a happy stress-free holiday season – gifts or no-gifts, tree or no-tree, turkey or no-turkey.

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