Is it really Joyful?

How do your kids react when you tell them that the “Family” is coming for Christmas?

It seems to depend upon the age of your children.

If they are babies and toddlers, they’re really not too concerned one way or another. For them, the day is full of people, noise and food – so, naturally, they love it because they get heaps of attention and food shoved into their mouths. They even get these funny little boxy things covered in bright colours that can be ripped unceremoniously apart without getting into trouble. It’s great!

Pre-teens love it as well because they can be as noisy as they like and run around crazily like they’re on intravenous red cordial and no one really seems to care. They can rip apart the wrapping paper as well – unless they have an especially OCD older brother or sister who insists they carefully remove every piece of sticky tape before carefully unfolding the paper and laying it aside for reuse at another time! Frustrating, but, oh well, it’s only once a year.

Teenagers actually like it too, some even love it, though it’s not cool to show you do, so you mope around snorting your nose at everyone else and especially at any younger sibling’s display of joy and recklessness. Depending on the family make-up, they can be inclusive or completely stand-offish. If, say, old Uncle Ray keeps coming around talking loudly, exhaling rotting smelling alcoholic breath and spitting little bits of food at you when he talks through yellowish stained teeth from years of abuse with cigarettes and gum disease, then you can understand why your teenage daughter might glare at him in horror and revulsion and move away as quickly as she can.

Or they will accept and smile sweetly at their loving grandparents who always bring sensible presents even though the gifts themselves might be better suited to a much older person.

Then there’s the competition: everyone has to see what everyone else got from everyone else. This can be a minefield, so it’s best to avoid.

We discovered it was better to give the immediate family their gifts in the morning before the rest of the family arrived, then that was all out of the way and we only had to focus on the food preparation and presentation. Random gifts were always appearing, but they were usually boxed shortbreads or chocolates, which were good for the next few days or weeks while people drifted in and out of view.

At the end of the day, it’s good to sit back with a cup of tea or glass of wine and reflect on the day and year gone by.

Yes, you are feeling incredibly bloated and stuffed full of Christmas Cheer, but you can also feel happy and proud of the achievements of your family since this time last year.

Yes, there have been ups and downs as always, and maybe some of your favourite people aren’t around anymore or couldn’t make it to Christmas Dinner this year, but hopefully the better times far outweigh the sad and bad times.

Even the kids have all settled down and the cousins are chatting or playing a rowdy game of Klop or cards or Monopoly; the babies and toddlers are exhausted and sprawled out on anything that resembles a resting place (couches, cushions, laps and dogs); and even old Uncle Ray is snoring fitfully on a lounge out on the verandah and away from the sensitive ones.

Your family reflects your world and that alone is worth feeling and being joyful. The colourful ones and those who appear to be completely colour-blind are all trying to do their best, and each of us has evolved to be the human beings we are now given our genetics, our experiences and our dominant thoughts. Each is there for a reason and a lesson. We only need to search for it.

Merry Christmas and have a wonderful festive season with all your loved ones!