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How to Have a Stress-Free Family Christmas

A quarter of us say surviving Christmas is more stressful than getting married—but it doesn’t have to be that way!


  • Step 1: Book a hotel Book a room. Nothing adds to family tension more than staying in the same cramped quarters with no escape from each other. If you’re the one hosting Christmas, suggest some nearby hotels; they’ll get the hint.
  • Step 2: Lower expectations Lower your expectations. While we’d all like Christmas to be like an episode of The Waltons, it usually ends up like The Simpsons, so don’t get depressed if things don’t go as planned.
  • Step 3: Ask what people want to do Ask people want they’d like to see, do, and eat while you’re together. Maybe deep down everyone would prefer Italian food, a potluck buffet, or even dinner out rather than the labor-intensive traditional Christmas meal.
  • Step 4: Address your pet peeves List everything that drives you crazy about Christmas: the endless gift buying? All-day cooking? Lazy relatives? This year, make changes: Get everyone a gift card, order in your side dishes, assign specific tasks to your guests.
  • TIP: To make gift buying even easier, get all your gift cards at your local drugstore. Many carry cards for national restaurant chains, stores, and even spas!
  • Step 5: Schedule breaks Schedule breaks from your family. Give yourself a breather by going out alone or with friends. Just make sure your family knows your plans ahead of time, so they won’t take it personally when you leave.
  • Step 6: Keep a two-drink maximum Keep a two-drink maximum. A drink or two may make dealing with your family easier; any more will make it harder—and possibly prompt you to say something that’ll keep tensions high for many Christmases to come!
  • FACT: The average Christmas dinner takes five hours to cook and three hours to clean up!

You Will Need

  • Patience
  • An ability to keep your mouth shut
  • Pen and paper
  • A telephone

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