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Surviving Christmas

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The festive songs are in full swing in the supermarkets, X Factor is down to its final few and Z-list celebs are eating bugs in the jungle, this can only mean one thing - we're on the home straight to Christmas.

Where has the year gone? I'm sure I'm not the only one who had plans to be on a beach in the Caribbean this year in an endeavour to escape the extraordinary levels of excess that surrounds the countdown to Christmas. The hideous over-shopping, overspending and overeating that characterises the season of goodwill.

But alas I'm here - in tropical Essex kicking myself for abandoning the Christmas in New York savings plan once again.

For many Christmas is a fun time and an opportunity to connect with loved ones. If you're a Christian it's a time to reflect on the real reason for the season - celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ. However for some Christmas is a time of strong emotions. There's the stress of having to spend all day with family members that you've hardly spoken a word to all year. Reflections of lost loved ones or shopping on a shoestring after being made redundant weighs heavy on the mind. So how can you survive the Christmas period and come out of it relatively unscathed?

I think it's really important to remember the reason for the season - whether you share the Christian faith or not. At the heart of Christianity are three words: love, peace and forgiveness. My thinking is that over indulging in any of these things is unlikely to result in stress, debt - or indigestion.

Real friends and the people that really love us actually don't care whether we buy them gifts or not. They care that we are happy and healthy. And tricky family members will just have to get over it if you haven't got the cash to do the big meal this year and schlep around the stores for random presents they don't need. Finding peace does actually sometimes mean making the decisions that are right for us.

Forgiveness can be tough as it goes against the grain and quite often it's those closest to us who hurt us the most. We can use Christmas day to prove a point and dig our heels in - or we can use it as an opportunity to move forward and let go of the past. Most of the time our resistance to forgive will ultimately result in hurting ourselves so it's not worth it. In fact, when we think about our own humanity and tendency to get things wrong, the forgiveness route is not a bad one to take. It means that later down the line when we need forgiveness ourselves we will reap what we've sown.

Love conquers all. That may sound clichéd but it's true. It's really hard for people to be unpleasant to you when you're constantly being nice to them. In fact - nice can become so annoying after a while that even your worst enemy (potentially a grating in-law that you have to spend Christmas day with) will throw in the towel.

Think big picture, Christmas is technically 24 hours and then it's back to normality. Don't over stretch yourself financially and don't waste food.

Finally, it might be a good idea to remember those in the forgotten corners of the world who will literally have nothing this Christmas except the love of their family.

We could also remember those in the UK whose homes have been flooded in the recent bad weather, who will be unable to spend Christmas in their own home, and think about how we can help. Or perhaps spare a thought for those living in parts of the world that have never known peace - only war - and are desperate for the power of forgiveness to bring an end to their plight. It is often when we take our minds of ourselves and focus on others that our issues don't seem so bad - and we realise that we have plenty to celebrate.

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