Give yourself the gift of peace this Christmas, one checklist at a time.
My family, on the whole, do not fight. Missing birthdays, disagreeing over child rearing, petty theft among siblings, (good natured) teasing and mild rudeness is most just brushed off. Our go to phrase is: This is not the hill I die on. Before fighting we count the cost, realise it is not worth it and then just agree to disagree and walk away. So, we might sound like tranquil peace-loving pacifists who sing songs and dance around campfires…NOT the case.
For a few weeks each year we are a pretty belligerent bunch of people.
I remember vividly, on the 18th of December 2021, storming up the stairs after my brother, calling him a horrible swearword, just to come face to face with my dearest mom…not my proudest moment. Most of our fights usually result from things that happen in the kitchen. Dishes being done or not done, ingredients disappearing, shopping lists ignored – disagreements about table settings, gifting rules and so on…another issue is stolen pillows and duvets as well as wet beach towels…wet towels everywhere. We are a family of 31 people ranging from 76 years old, the mother who was at the receiving end of my swearing, to 18 months, my daughter who may never say the word I shouted at my brother. All 31 of us come together at one large beach house each year. #AndThenTheFightStarted
That’s why we have come up with a couple of tried and tested Festive Season Hacks to take some of the bite out of the family fights.
The Rule: The grown-ups prep and plan everything from meals to outings to sleep and travel arrangements.
Going away for the jolly-season?
To avoid a war, you need to prepare for battle.
Take the extra bedding, pack the camp cot, bring your own pillow. Yes, it sucks to have an overstuffed car, but not having a place to contain your toddler for a few minutes or a good nights’ sleep is worse.
Obviously, your packing list will differ based on destination, type of holiday/get-away and family setup, but the best option is to take an afternoon now, before the rush and think ahead about what items you’ll need for your festive travels. If it is a road trip, have your car serviced, check your tires, and make sure about expiration dates on licenses and registrations (As well as credit cards!)
Finally: Don’t. Forget. The. Sunscreen.
If you are staying at home and hosting, do the same. Stock up on things like toilet paper, long life milk, cleaning supplies and quick, frozen meal options for when you are fed up with gammon and mince pies.
Plan the perfect celebration meal.
The French have a phrase for this, mise-en-place, which literally means to “put in place”.
This might sound obvious or tedious but trust me – it works! Whether you are hosting an informal braai or going all in with a classic sit-down meal, planning ahead will make the day easier. (And you less shouty.)
Plan your menu so that at least 50% of your dishes can be made before hand, and then make sure that you use your resources well for the remaining 50%. If you are roasting a leg of lamb or a gammon or a whole chicken, double up on the hot oven for roasted potatoes or veggies or a baked pudding.
Get the grunt work out of the way.
Chop, peel and slice your ingredients before hand and store them in smaller containers. Set out your pots, pans and serving dishes. Make lists and live by them.
Count out your cutlery, glasses, and flatware, set out your table linens and decorations – do as much as you can before your guests arrive. Yes, this is hard work, but you have to do it in any case and by doing it earlier, you can actually enjoy a drink and a chat with your loved ones instead of rushing around in background trying to fix everything in the last minute.
You can add to this list, but this covers some of the basics of successful entertaining.
- Make a playlist to avoid the awkward silences.
- Get disposable eco-friendly cutlery, plates, cups and napkins for at least some of the meals. Your formal meal can be all crystal and silverware, but every single meal doesn’t have to add to the pile of dishes you have to do.
- Make sure your decorations are kiddo and pet friendly – skip choking hazards or potentially toxic plants and flowers.
- Have discussions up front about gift giving. Set a budget, decide on a time for exchanging gifts (before or after the meal for example), and ask everyone politely to please respect these guidelines.
Keep Mr Delivery on speed dial.
If all else fails, the food turns out horrible and there is no hope to save it, don’t fight, don’t fuss, don’t fear. Get on your Uber Eats or Mr Delivery app and simply order a KFC bucket. The festive season is not the season to give yourself hell about small failings like burnt food.
Taking these tips to heart might just fend off the worst festive family fights and allow you to get back to what is important – eating way to many tiny chocolate balls and spending quality time with the ones you love, reflecting on yet another crazy year.