Whether your family celebrates Hanukkah, Christmas or both, this year finds the celebrations coinciding. With its eight days, Hanukkah begins on the evening of December 24 and culminates on the evening of January 1. The traditional Christian celebration of Christmas begins with Advent, starting on the fourth Sunday before Christmas and extending 12 days, ending with Epiphany on January 6. Despite the ever earlier onslaught of commercial messages extolling us to shop-until-we-drop, our cultural Christmas season seems to reach its peak on Christmas Eve and end with the arrival of the new year.
What’s makes these holidays special? What fond memories do we cherish? What makes us cringe? The answers vary, but family seems universal. Yep, God love ‘em, some of our relatives make us cringe. Are our feelings obvious? Are they mutual? In the spirit of the holidays, finding ways to manage our feelings and be inclusive are important. Family does count, and as I recall hearing children say, “you can pick your nose, and you can pick your friends, but you can’t pick your family.” Depend on early school aged kids to “tell it like it is.”
Best way to handle such relatives is beforehand. Think about why you feel the way you do. What might you do or say to lay the foundation for a more amicable encounter. How might you graciously and firmly avoid traps? Rehearsing scenarios in our minds can be useful, not a guarantee of success, but better than being caught off guard.
Living, as we do, in a polarized society, we’re wise to avoid hot button issues in holiday conversations. If one comes up, speak up immediately, reminding everyone of the purpose of the gathering – to celebrate the season, share fond memories and make new ones. Most people will take the hint. Others will keep hammering away. That’s the time to be polite as you firmly refuse to take the bait. Take a walk instead.
Surround yourself with joy. Celebrate the season with a simple afternoon tea with those near and dear to you.
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