Christmas politics. Is there anything worse? It’s that time of year where at least 50 per cent of every family or friendship group grits their teeth and forces a smile as they try to negotiate whose turn it is to host or attend Christmas.

Whether it’s realising that Drunkle Dickhead is coming to town and has to stay on your couch because last time he was here he almost set fire to Aunty June’s cat which has never fully recovered, or having to endure three big meal in three different cities over a period of a day so that the feelings of the parents, in-laws and extended family are not hurt, or finding out that your sister’s boyfriend insists on having a full Latin mass at the table before you eat, everyone has a story to tell around Christmas.

I’ve heard nightmare stories from friends whose parents have chosen to “re-theme” Christmas. I’ve heard stories of people whose feelings were hurt when their parents told them that they would be spending Christmas on a cruise, without them instead of hosting the traditional Christmas feast.

I know people who have pretended to be overseas, choosing to hide out in their apartment with some leg ham and bad Christmas movies rather than endure the hurt feelings of one or more sides of the family.  If you’re my parents, you simply try to steal Christmas. For the better part of my childhood, my parents put a ban on the much loved tree and presents until I was old enough to graduate from the Jewish school I attended.

Though my father is Catholic, it apparently was unseemly for a child of mixed-faith parents to indulge in tree decoration, present giving and ham eating while attending Hebrew school. There’s nothing quite like a Jewish education to invigorate my fervour for the Christmas season.

And don’t even get me started on presents. Some families go in for the Kris Kringle, others do a family draw where everyone buys each other a single present so as to keep costs down, some even insist on no presents.

But no matter what, awkwardness ensues. What if one person wants her present donated to charity? Does that mean you have to buy two presents because you don’t feel comfortable showing up empty handed? Does that mean everyone should feel compelled to donate to charity? And is cash an acceptable gift? And does no present REALLY mean no present?

It all just seems a little bit too stressful.

Christmas ought to be a two day affair just to accommodate all the egos, but who could bear to have to go through all that politics twice?!

I wish I could offer some advice to people on how to avoid Christmas stress but frankly, I got nothing.

The only suggestion I can offer is to create a contingency plan for Christmas that you would be comfortable continuing once children arrive on the scene.

Because once you have a plan in place, that is it FOR LIFE. When you look back over Christmases past, present and future, you want to remember them fondly.

So be careful. Walk softly, carry a big stick and try to remember that compromise is an art.  And if you’re feeling really cranky, just watch the video above and try and remember that Christmas should be about caring, and family and forgiveness.

Merry Christmas, everyone.

Comments on this post will close at 6pm AEDT.

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    • acotrel says:

      05:18am | 22/12/12

      ’ know people who have pretended to be overseas, choosing to hide out in their apartment with some leg ham and bad Christmas movies rather than endure the hurt feelings of one or more sides of the family.’

      Thanks for that, however it won’t work for me.  They all know where I am and what I am doing. Do you know anyone with a very serious infectious disease that I can visit ?  I’ve just got time to incubate something before I have to go that bullshit. This year I’ve had just about as much family as I can stand and a couple in particular are just a bloody disgrace, and that’s where the conversation will be. Perhaps I could run away to Sydney and stay with a call girl, and go to some real parties ?

    • All effed up says:

      07:04am | 22/12/12

      “I’ve just got time to incubate something before I have to go that bullshit. This year I’ve had just about as much family as I can stand and a couple in particular are just a bloody disgrace,”

      I can, and many more will probably understand your predicament.  You incubate much sarcasm and disease as possible on these forums.  No wonder they see you as “different” and why you decided to live in the bush. 

      Seeking sympathy?  Not from here! 

      PS   Merry Christmas to Colin.

    • marley says:

      07:30am | 22/12/12

      @acotrel - if it’s that bad, just take your wife and head for some little cottage or cabin in the opposite direction from the madding crowds.  And makes sure there are no telephones.  Have your own private party and deal with the rellies in the New Year.

    • Still Missing My Grandfather Muchly says:

      09:00am | 22/12/12

      I did that once….albeit I pretended to be camping on Straddie Island as opposed to pretending to be overseas. I was a lot younger and didn’t know how to handle the ensuing situation, so decided that “I was going camping with friends”.

      It was 1997 and the second Christmas without my wonderful grandfather, who passed away mid 1995. He and I were extremely close, and as it stands, I still consider him to be the only person in my family who’s ever fully understood me.

      Christmas 1996 was unbearable without him, and I wept silently the whole time I wasn’t in sight of the family - and even then, I kept mysteriously getting ‘dust’ in my eyes.  Of course, my parents went along as if nothing was amiss, not even acknowledging ‘absent friends’ so to speak. This made things worse, and when I tried to speak up, I got spoken over as per ususal by my ego-endowed older brother.

      Roll along 1997, and I decided that I would not endure that ever again (actually it wasn’t a choice - I simply had no strength to face it). So at home I stayed, with my flat-mate (who was also avoiding her family), we had our own little ‘Christmas Feast’ and watched tragic Christmas cartoons and over indulged in Malteesers. I phoned my family “from Stradbroke Island” where I was supposedly camping with friends.

      The next year and thereafter, I was married and had the support of the most wonderful man who would not put up with any rubbish and forced all to at least acknowledge my grandparents absence. That seemed to break the ice and things have been great since.

    • Gregg says:

      09:14am | 22/12/12

      I suppose being related to Hoover is not so bad and even Edgar can be a good lad at the right moment but I can understand your tepidation when half brother Grimm announces his intent.

      ” ’ know people who have pretended to be overseas, choosing to hide out in their apartment with some leg ham and bad Christmas movies rather than endure the hurt feelings of one or more sides of the family.’ “
      You missed the gift there from the porkers mouth ( not you CC but the ham porker )
      All you need is a letter from a distant rellie on how they have not been so well of late and will be alone for Xmas unless you care to visit.
      Just leave it on the table with your own addition - ” see you all after NY ”

    • pa_kelvin says:

      10:02am | 22/12/12

      acotrel dont do Christmas… hardly surprising..

    • dweezy 2176 says:

      02:06pm | 22/12/12

      Give Craig a call. He’ll have a spare credit card you can use & all the phone numbers you’ll need!
      Merry Xmas ............

    • Justme says:

      05:55am | 22/12/12

      We’ve left town. Gone to a state where there are no rellies. Camping out in 5 star luxury being waited on hand and foot. Will skype the granparents on xmas morning and text the lesser rellies later in the day. Will reappear at home after the new year to hear everyone else’s horror stories.

    • Ben says:

      06:01am | 22/12/12

      >Whether it’s realising that Drunkle Dickhead is coming to town

      Not sure how to reconcile this with the following:

      “Yes, I am talking about “the C word”. This horrible, derogatory word seems to have slipped into the common Aussie vernacular without very much protest.”

    • Onlooker says:

      06:13am | 22/12/12

      All my family have died..even my only sister. I have just one son, he is a darling a very easy going man so I don’t have any hassles in the family department at all. I do miss my family at this time in particular, even the food tossing fights sound good to me. My grandmother died at 98, she was a very intelligent woman and born out of her time. She was staunchly Labor and would argue The Labor cause all Christmas Day long, every Christmas she would say this will be my last Christmas..till finally one year it was. Have a lovely Christmas all and treasure the dramas and arguments because one day you will be longing for them again.

    • Rod Mac says:

      09:16am | 22/12/12

      Onlooker, your message is what Christmas is all about. The article assumes a certain self-centredness whereas you rightly remind us of the true meaning of Christmas: rejoicing in the love of family.

    • Gregg says:

      09:31am | 22/12/12

      I remember a few of our Xmases where my bro by a bit over two years would start to go on about politics and I suppose he was always more a confirmed Labor bod whereas my work experiences had me more of a swinger but just so we had sides, I’d probably swing Liberal way even though I really had SFA interest in politics.
      Discussions would continue so for a while with little bits added here and there by others until my mum would reckon I was just baiting big bro ( which I wasn’t off course or not that I was really thinking that way )

      It was a timely point for the family to realise that mum’s calim to fame was that she had once been a baby sitter for Bob Hawke even if she was only a few years older ( both born in Bordertown ).
      So someone might chime in, ” pity you hadn’t dropped him on his head a few times “
      That was when you had to get in real quick with ” That’s his problem, mum did and it was more than a few times! “

      Christmases are much quieter these days and last year I had to actually go travelling ( well, more an enforced need than desperate necessity ) to finsish off a whole heap of retoration activities including over Xmas day itself and boxing day, doing some septic tank trenching work by hand - long story!
      This one ought to be more layback ( touch wood ) and one side of the family is on the opposite side of the planet, an older MIL to be concerned about, one daughter based in Singapore and another possibly visiting her with her own daughter but for the past fifteen years or so, all Xmases have usually been on the quiet side with just two of us and two hounds and the beach not far away.
      Checking in with some local friends for this year.

      But you have a good Xmas too Onlooker and even without family about, it can still be a lovely time and these days it seems an interminable wait for the Boxing Day test to start and then a flick over for the Sydney Hobart start.

    • Marty says:

      10:02am | 22/12/12

      Hi Onlooker
      Merry Christmas to you and your son.
      Best wishes from, Marty, Leonie and Bob the dog.

    • Geronimo says:

      06:46am | 22/12/12

      Canberra has nothing on the predictions of one their looney progenitors either…Bygone events of intergalactic turmoil has inspired him to spend an early Christmas Season ‘doing some very important things’ in the Happy Hunting Ground of his ancestors..

    • RAY says:

      07:02am | 22/12/12

      Oh Yes Xmas with the In Laws I can’t wait. WOW !!! It’s just what I wanted Kenny G Xmas CD.

    • Rose says:

      07:30am | 22/12/12

      I hear about all the crises people have at Christmas and I thank goodness that we made a decision years ago that is set in stone, feelings or no feelings. In-laws on Christmas Eve, my family Christmas Day. It is non-negotiable, it is the closest thing to law we have in the family. Neither family is permitted yo encroach on the other family’s time.
      It did ruffle a few feathers the first year but since then everyone is happy, they know exactly what’s going on and it makes for a stress free Christmas smile

    • Our Labrador looks cute when dressed as a Christma says:

      01:58pm | 22/12/12

      We started our married life with something similar, but one set of our parents decided that their side of the family deserved all Christmas Eve, Christmas Day AND Boxing Day because another member of that family had 11 children….and the other side of the family one had two brothers and two children to visit.

      They didn’t quite get that there were older members such as grandparents, aunts & uncles and long-standing family friends belonging to the other side, who were just as important and who we were excited to visit.

      The 11-and-counting childed family’s response was “Christmas is only about ‘THE CHILDREN’”.

      (Cue…“won’t SOMEBODY please THINK of the CHIILLLDDREEEEN!”).

      Those kids were the most self-indulged, greedy, ungrateful, spoilt and rude crotch-droppings we’d ever come across. The six year old actually questioned the value (as in cost) of his Christmas gift, and complained that we should have spent more. Yes, a six year old asked us why we did not spend more on him.  Rarely, if ever, was a ‘thank-you’ heard from any of the kid’s mouths. The father of that brood also hinted that we could afford more on HIS kids because both of us worked (so we should be able to spend more on individual presents). Alas, he & his wife were always “too poor” to even buy a box of chocolates for the grandmother of that family. 

      So the following year, those kids got three board-games the whole family could use, and donations were made on their behalf to the RSPCA, Red Cross, and Cancer Council.

      From then on, we had a yearly approach to Christmas, insofar we spent Christmas and Boxing Day with one side of the family one year, and the other side of the family the next year, and the third year we had it only with each other.

      Best thing we ever did.

      Thanks to everyone at Punch for your articles, perspectives & thoughts, and to everyone who has provided input in response. The columns and comments have provided a thought-provoking and interesting read.

      Merry Christmas all, and have a safe, healthy, happy 2013. xxx

    • Rose says:

      03:34pm | 22/12/12

      You’d be within your rights to tell the parents of the dreaded 11 that they can go jump until they teach their kids manners. As a mum of 6 I have always told my kids that just because there are more of them than in most families doesn’t mean they should expect more. I have also told them Christmas is definitely NOT about the children, it’s about the family, adults and kids equally. Sure most of the presents are child friendly but Christmas is supposed to be about families getting together and enjoying time with each other, not about who coughs up the most cash on stuff which may or may not be used. My kids used to get the biggest thrill receiving presents that they could play together, not individual solo toys. Probably because they seem to genuinely like spending time together, even now they often seek each other out to do things together and they’re adults.
      We have been very rigid in sticking to our Christmas roster for about 20 years. Every now and then some one makes a noise about swapping the days around but we just say, “this is how we do it, it works for our family and it will stay like this” or similar. They give up trying fairly quickly because our whole family (me, hubby and kids) is absolutely united on the Christmas ‘roster’. So maybe that’s the secret, make sure nobody shows any sign of weakness when questioned about it smile

    • Geronimo says:

      07:37am | 22/12/12

      A good example, how about the Christmas Bill-of-Fare served by Xenothon on 20th December. The dish contained the allegation a report relating to security issues in Australian Customs had been virtually ignored for 10 years.
      If that is the case, one questions why has he not emerged from his little Independent Enclave in the Serial Killer State to include this Song-n-Dance Act in his decade long repertoire of expedient response.

    • George says:

      07:54am | 22/12/12

      Don’t say much, don’t talk about politics, just talk about inane fluffy stuff, eat a lot, repeat for 4-5 hours. Shit, I don’t know what’s going to happen when the old people cark it. I’ll have to learn to talk about boring crap and pretend that the main stream media is actual news. There needs to be a temporary lobotomy operation.

    • Geronimo says:

      09:23am | 22/12/12

      Roses are Reddish, Violets are Bluish, if it weren’t for Christmas we’d all be Jewish. Old Jungle Saying.

    • knowall says:

      02:40pm | 22/12/12

      Temporary lobotomy is an oxymoron.

    • stephen says:

      03:59pm | 22/12/12

      Craig Thompson and lobotomy is tautology.
      Craig Thompson and temporary lobotomy is oxymoron.

      Therefore, what will be, will be.

    • Notvelty says:

      07:54am | 22/12/12

      Craig? Craig Thompson, is that you?

    • Gregg says:

      09:34am | 22/12/12

      Try Craigs List.

    • Faith says:

      08:17am | 22/12/12

      You Scrooges! Get over yourselves.
      Every family has irritable members that can send you over the edge, you are not special.
      Christmas should be bait putting aside those differences and being thankful for what you have.
      Focus on the young children and make it about them, I have explained to the adults that I am happy to host every year as long as they each bring a dish to share and that we make it about the children.
      I have told them that Christmas is the one day of the year that we all get together at the same time and that I like to make it special for the kids.

      If you can’t keep your differences aside for even one day, then it goes to show how mean spirited, selfish and self centred ppl really are.
      So, absolutely, hide under a rock, fake an illness, go away somewhere and make sure you take your misery with you and let those that enjoy this time of year enjoy it without having to worry about you sour pusses.

      To everyone else, enjoy and embrace Christmas.

    • T says:

      08:51am | 22/12/12

      I say do what you want, your family will get over it eventually.

      I have tonsillitis this year (and I’m in retail so it’s our busiest time) and i’m refusing to be dragged around the state to see My BF and my own family on my only 2 days off. We are locking ourselves indoors with ham, french onion dip and margaritas. With only our Parrots for company and are not coming out again until near NYE.

      The family can whine all they want I won’t be listening.

      Happy Xmas everyone!

    • Wendy says:

      08:57am | 22/12/12

      Well said onlooker.  How about we just stop the constant whinging about how horrible it is,  enjoy the people we love, endure the ones we don’t, dont sweat the small stufd and be bloody thankful for all we have especially as so many people don’t.

    • Dorothy says:

      10:37am | 22/12/12

      One thing that has gone missing over the years - Glory to God in the highest, peace on earth and goodwill to all men.  When this is restored, so will good times.

    • Blonde Headed Stompie Wompie Real Gone Surfer Boy. says:

      10:57am | 22/12/12

      Ah, Christmas. The sound of Jingle Bells in the air, at almost every shopping centre. The sight of fat people dripping sweat, looking into shop windows frosted around the edges with fake snow, gazing at sleigh and reindeer prancing in the sky, and wishing they could be at the North Pole right now, and remembering the Christmas cards they posted to their relatives and friends in Darwin. The sound of children frolicking in the aisles, pulling stuff off shelves, and screaming at the parent or grandmother from the floor wanting that dolly or AK47. The centre walkways jammed with booths wanting you to sign up with Austar, buy a phone cover, some cheap jewelry, etc, steering the shopping trolley past the manicurist salon emanating a chemical smell that’s bound to be fatal, and wondering how the patients’ can hold their breath for so long. Out into the glaring sun with shades dropping down from the forehead with a flick, recounting that plotting vector data taken when leaving your vehicle, to find yours with the offside door dent, compliments of an anonymous donor months ago. Yes, it’s Christmas! Gone are the days when the soothing tones of Bing Crosby could be heard singing White Christmas. Or even Barry Manilow. How about Vera Lynn, or Rosemary Clooney singing Winter Wonderland. No, it doesn’t work. This is Australia, in summer.

    • Gregg says:

      11:02am | 22/12/12

      ’ Christmas ought to be a two day affair just to accommodate all the egos, but who could bear to have to go through all that politics twice?! “

      The politics can always be manageable but making it more than two days and forgetting egos is a better way for it is the festive season to be jolly after all or as jolly as you can be, all things considered.

      I could probably consider having started yesterday seeing as Thursday was not such a good day whereas yesterday was a bright and early start at about 4:30 am to take my regular blood/plasma donating trip and get it done nice and early before it got too hot and taking a car less neighbour in for the trip so he can do some cheap shopping too at Aldi.

      Red Cross a couple of months back canned volunteers doing pikelets making and I’ve sent them an email about that (no response which is bad for an organisation that depends on volunteers ) and not to be outdone I took in a Xmas cake and some cream and said maybe you will not be allowed to issue it to other donors but I’ll have some later and the nurses can have the rest for MT if they like.
      They had little Xmas puddings for donors so that was a nice touch.

      So after the donation, it was off to the shops early and just as well for parking spaces were already short and shops getting more crowded by the minute but still found enough workers on the helpful side and always remember to wish them a merry Xmas and have a snag at the snag tent outside of Bunnings and wish those guys a good Xmas too.
      Even found an elderly lady struggling to get her coin back from the shopping trolley lock, so another Xmas cheer for the day to help her.

      Anyway, all up not such a bad day and we are even more stocked with Xmas treats that will probably last us well into January and even beyond with stuff that lasts.
      I’m sure there’ll be plenty more opportunities to spread the cheer just by greetings as the weekend progresses into Xmas eve and whilst visiting Xmas Day itself can take you out of your comfort zone a tad, it will still be survivable and a good chance to yak a bit for a few hours with those you might just see a couple of times a year if that.

    • youdy beaudy says:

      11:50am | 22/12/12

      Well, We’re going to have xmas day at home. My dear brother is coming and two of my four grandchildren as well. My Daughter and her Husband and another lady friend. My other 2 Grandkids will no doubt be going to their mothers family for the day. Bit flakey there but who knows, one day.

      So, we will eat, drink and be merry not sour and the kids have a xmas tree and their pressies to open. That’s what it’s all about for us, the kids getting their pressies and having happiness. We will probably get a bit shickered and my brother will get a cab home later.

      I’m sure it will be a good day but as we know the preparation what with food, drinkies and what last minute presents to buy is always not really enjoyable, because you want the best you can afford and not get caught up in the usual herd mentality that happens this time of year. It’s only one day of the year after all.

      There is always problems in some families what with the ole sibling rivalry and jealousies but if everyone approaches with a good heart then things can be forgiven and people can move on with some feeling of happiness towards the new year. As we know problems happen even in the best of families.

      I would like to wish everyone a happy xmas this year and hope that we can all put our differences behind us and make up. To you and yours a happy christmas and new year 2013. The world didn’t end and we are still going on with it all. Happy xmas to all and we’ll see you on the flip side of the punch.

    • Mik says:

      03:06pm | 22/12/12

      Our ages will range from from 3 months to 90 years and some are strays. Don’t really know how many we’ll end up with but it doesn’t matter because there is always too much food anyway. There’s trees in the garden and sleeping bags for those who’ve over indulged or need time out. Don’t get wrapped up in the doing one’s duty thing, reles know they can come or go or stay away.
      Stingoes,  bandaids and panadol are a must.

    • Dorothy says:

      01:04pm | 22/12/12

      There is no peace for the wicked.

    • C says:

      01:31pm | 22/12/12

      We had a phone call late last night from a friend to say that the much older cousin she lives with had had a stroke earlier that day and is in hospital. They are the only family each other have. They had invited a couple of other lonely people for Christmas lunch. That won’t be happening now.
      There are parents out there who won’t have their children with them for Christmas - not by choice or location but because of death through illness, accident or murder.  Some of them would already have bought presents and decorated a tree.
      I don’t have a thing in common with my sister’s Greek in-laws but every year since my mother died they have included my father and myself in their celebrations - and, know what, I think that’s wonderful of them. I’ll contribute some food and help out where I can as a way of saying “thankyou” - to them and for having somewhere to go and something to share.

    • Rose says:

      03:40pm | 22/12/12

      Family and friends is what Christmas is about, not presents and keeping up appearances or any other crap. A friend of ours lost his dad earlier this year and is celebrating without him for the first time…...the rest of us should be grateful we have family and friends to share the time with, as you say, others aren’t so fortunate.
      Merry Christmas to you and to your welcoming Greek ‘family’.

    • iansand says:

      01:38pm | 22/12/12

      Christmas Eve with 8 rellies and a niece’s German boyfriend in my reasonably capacious flat.  So far, so good.  And another niece’s 9 month old fox terrier.  Hmmm….

      I remember two Christmases as being different from the norm.  One was 3 days into a rafting trip down the Franklin River, drifting past the camp site of another party having a rest day and being called over for hot pancakes on a cold and drizzly day.  The other was waking up early in our hotel on South Central Park and walking down to Battery Park via the Empire State Building, Greenwich Village, Little Italy, Wall Street and a few other sites then having a late Christmas lunch at the View on the World restaurant on top of the World Trade Centre.  A still, cold clear New York winter day with views all the way back to Central Park and beyond.  Followed by a carriage ride in Central Park.

      Merry Christmas and Bah Humbug to you all.

    • dweezy 2176 says:

      02:14pm | 22/12/12

      I enjoy Xmas, my four grown kids + grandchildren all get along and now my son and his wife have bought a beachside mansion we will all be converging on them + staying o/n as it’s too much hassle getting back the same day.
      So a Merry Christmas & Happy New Year to all including Acotrel!

    • Santa's friend says:

      03:59pm | 22/12/12

      My daughter has taken over Christmas - just as she takes over or tries to take over every other family celebration. She dictates what we are eating and when (this year, her brother is at work so he and his family can’t attend), tells us what we are allowed to spend, even goes as far as telling everyone how much we can spend and that it was a Kris Kringle, drawn by her best friend, in her presence - with her list of “ideas” identifying gifts well over her decreed limit for everyone. This last situation is better than last year. To me, my daughter has stolen my Christmas spirit. Christmas is about family and if I choose to spend on my children, so be it. It is my choice. I would like my family there, though ...

    • Pinky says:

      04:11pm | 22/12/12

      I think you mean ‘Parliament’, Canberra is just a city. So over people using the word ‘Canberra’ in the wrong context.

    • Heston's cold dead hand says:

      04:47pm | 22/12/12

      I’m getting my grandkids armed guards for Christmas!


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