Everyone has a picture in their mind of what an ideal family holiday should be. Usually this involves lots of family members of all ages sitting around a large table, eating, drinking, laughing and never, ever disagreeing. Unfortunately, this is somewhat unrealistic. When large groups of people gather, personality conflicts are bound to arise. This doesn't mean a ruined holiday, however. All it takes is a little forethought and a bit of tact to create an atmosphere where everyone can have fun and celebrate!
- Respect your elders (and your youngers, and even those the same age as you)! The most important rule in creating enjoyable family holidays is to treat everyone with respect. That means that when great-grandma offers you unwanted advice on disciplining your children, simply say, "Thank you for that advice." You don't need to agree with her, follow her suggestions or explain to her why you think she's wrong. You just need to remind yourself that everyone has different beliefs, and that's a good thing. It would be an awfully boring family gathering if everyone thought the same thoughts and said the same things!
- Understand that a large family gathering isn't the time for rehashing old arguments. If you have a long-running disagreement with a member of your family, do not use your extended family's Christmas party as an occasion to resolve it. Bringing up personal arguments in front of the entire family is bad form, and will only create additional animosity between you and the person with whom you don't agree. It will also make your other family members uncomfortable, and possibly ruin the gathering for everyone. Instead, put on a happy face and remember, it's Christmas - a time for peace and love! If you absolutely can't get along with someone, try to avoid being alone in the same room with them. A more acceptable solution is to arrange a time after the family celebration when you can discuss what's bothering you.
- Remember the golden rule - do unto others as you would have them do unto you. If everyone lived by this simple rule, you really could create a family holiday that mirrors that ideal in your mind. When you are tempted to offer your niece a bit of advice on how her cookies would taste better if she followed the recipe that you use, think about how mean-spirited this would feel if someone said it to you. Even well-meaning advice can sound a bit pompous, so if you're going to criticize, do it only in the most constructive way possible. Many families use four basic rules to teach their children acceptable social behavior - don't hurt others, try to help others, ask for help when you need it, and use words to talk about problems. These rules are just as appropriate for adults as they are for children. Make sure that your behavior follows these guidelines, too.
- Know that humor can diffuse the most tense situation. If you notice that a discussion among family members seems to be escalating into an argument, be ready with a funny story from the last family get-together or a silly joke. This doesn't mean you have to be a court jester at all times, but a bit of humor can allow both parties to back down gracefully.
- Celebrate the differences in your family! The holidays are a time to be thankful for what you have, and if what you have is a family that loves to get together, then you are truly blessed. Focus on the positive aspects of such differences. There aren't many occasions throughout the year when you can gather people of so many ages, backgrounds and personalities under one roof - and you get to be related to all of them!
An important thing to remember is that perfection isn't necessary to create priceless memories. There will probably be disagreements, there will certainly be people who say things that you don't agree with, and that's okay. A few little arguments don't mean that the holiday is ruined. Focus on the special (and sometimes silly!) moments that will be remembered by everyone for years to come!