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Tips for surviving Christmas angst

  • 06 December 2016


Has it happened yet? Have you endured time as a captive audience member in the elevator, the workplace, the school concert, the shopping centre? Have carols and Christmas songs siphoned away your reservoir of good will, prompting welcome and unwelcome guest stars to invade your personal space?

Feeling less joy and more angst? Forget the halls; are you tempted to deck your obnoxious relly or the droning grouch who corners you every year at the work do?

The tissue between honest sentiment, hidden woes and seasonal affectation is never thinner than now. As a younger man I recall blitzing Queensland's beaches and parks with my extended clan, only to get off the plane in wintry Melbourne thereafter and howl like a loon, driving all the way from the Tulla on-ramp to the Dandenong mountains.

Christ's Mass is a surprisingly stressful time, considering Emmanuel's rep as the Prince of Peace. The emotional intensity of family reunions, coupled with bereavements, swathes of suddenly 'empty time' and unresolved conflicts can all lead to incendiary conversations and clashes.

Across Australia, charities and churches, welfare arms, counselling clinics, ambulances and police stations have girded their loins for additional surges in toy runs, Christmas lunch hampers, and increases in family and domestic violence rates.

Cricket games, coma-inducing feasts, siestas and work lunches, the origami orgy of Christmas present wrappings being rent asunder ... the underlying truth in all of this, for many of us, is deep emotional pain and loneliness that's gone unheard, unnoticed, all year.

Family is both a lodestone and a millstone at Christmas. It's a truth magnified by aspirational love. As Pope John XXIII once said, cutting close to home, 'Mankind is a great, an immense family. This is proved by what we feel in our hearts at Christmas.' It's a big ask that carries a price. The broken or breaking relationships we've limped with throughout the year receive additional stress, as relatives crashing at your place, like the proverbial fish, go off in three days.

Fathers and sons, brothers and in-laws: it can make for several bulls in the one paddock. As for mothers and mothers-in-law dancing widdershins around daughter-mothers? It's the great Australian tradition of duck shooting, with waterfowl trembling along the still waters, awaiting the first shot.


"One reason Christmas makes many of us so uneasy is the yammering away of tired culture warriors who fear that someone, somewhere, is going to steal Christ from the manger and