With so many people affected by seasonal affective disorder (SAD, often referred to as the winter blues), or battling through some of life's more trying obstacles, it might be tempting to opt out when it comes to festive cheer.
After all, it's only one year and there will be others ...
I won't pretend that I haven't had Christmases where the tears have plopped down onto my turkey dinner as I sat at the table trying to be jolly, but wishing my mum was still here. But life is what you make it and being miserable simply makes you feel a whole lot worse!
Christmas is a time when there is a lot of goodwill in the air and anything that spreads a little happiness is a tonic if you avoid the pitfalls. It isn't about spending a lot of money, or buying up the supermarket until you can't fit another mince pie into the cupboard. It's about the small things.
Here are my 6 top tips for getting the most out of the festive season:
1. Cut back on the presents. Set yourself a limit so you don't overspend and start the New Year regretting your over-indulgence. Tell friends and family you are doing Christmas on a budget and they'll probably feel just as relieved!
2. The kids have left home, so why bother trimming up when you will be sitting around a relative's table on Christmas day? As the dark days lengthen anything that lifts the spirits and adds a bit of sparkle to life is a bonus. See below for some simply ideas to refresh your existing trimmings and get festive using a light touch!
3. Kids love making things, so get involved and you'll find yourself having fun. Whether they are your kids, the grandkids, nephews and nieces, or you are babysitting ... their fun is infectious. It will also remind you what Christmas is all about, so set aside a half day and get out the glitter and the glue. And don't forget paper chains - cut up colourful strips for the kids to glue.
4. Wallow in nostalgia - those old Christmas songs and films will warm your heart. As Christmas past comes to visit you there will be sad moments, but ultimately never lose sight of those precious memories! There's comfort in nostalgia and it serves to remind us all that we are making memories NOW, so make them happy ones.
5. Enjoy those traditions - whether it's the Christmas fare you don't have at any other time of the year (remember cheese balls and Twiglets?) but were always there in your festive childhood holidays, or listening to a carol service. Or maybe those scented candles of pine, or cinnamon. We hang onto traditions because it's a source of comfort and familiarity, and as our parents did it for us we then do it for the next generation. One of my traditions is making 'alternative mince pies' that don't have currants and sultanas. Instead I use orange peel, walnuts, hazelnuts and apple. It's the small treats that make it a special holiday.
6. Spread the joy. Loneliness at Christmas is an awful thing. If you know of someone who is on their own and not receptive to being invited around, why not pop in with a mince pie? Sometimes the best present you can give is a listening ear, or a little laughter. When you are out and about remember that a smile, a 'happy Christmas', or a little general banter can brighten someone's day when they've been working a long shift. It doesn't just make them feel good, but you'll feel it in your heart, too! And don't forget the postman ...
Love really IS all around (apologies to Love Actually) and never more so than at Christmas!
And now for a few Christmas decorating tips. After all, alongside listening to music, wallowing in a bubble bath, and watching a good film, the ambience of your surroundings is one of the key mood lifters.
The alternative Christmas tree
Simple decorations are quicker to put up and quicker to take down! Instead of buying a purpose-made, twiggy version of a Christmas tree why not make your own?
You just need to buy a fairly big container - mine was a purchase from T K Maxx in a sale, but it could be a metal container or a chunky china pot. Twigs can be purchased from IKEA and twigs with lights can be purchased cheaply online, or from various stores. What you will then have is something that can stand in the corner of your sitting room all year round and will give a soft glow.
For the festive season just add a few simple decorations - these ranged from 79p to £1.99 each.
When less is enough...
Tempted by the latest array of Christmas baubles, garlands and decorations? Maybe it's time to up cycle some of those trimmings that have begun to look a little tired. Take one can of spray matt white paint, a sheet to cover the floor (best done outside on a dry day) and you will find you can spray almost anything. It doesn't have to be solid white, as even a light mist coat will give a snowy look!
Spraying a large garland and some smaller ones softened the effect nicely. Don't forget that pine cones are free if you are prepared to pull on those wellie boots and go for a walk on common land!
Just a few small touches here and there around the house is enough to create a little Christmas magic. The bells hanging from the banister rail below were a bargain at only £2.99 from B&M stores. They had metal bows which I detached and replaced with some of the newly sprayed foliage.
This table centre below was only £5.99 in last year's Christmas sale at a local garden centre. The pine cones were free, the two silver metal bows were recycled from the bells used in the hallway, a few sprigs of the sprayed foliage and a bauble or two finishes it off. The candles are battery operated and only £1.99 for a pack of six. On Christmas day I will replace the pine cones with a stack of citrus fruit and nuts to give a splash of colour.
I trim up in November because those little touches make the dark evenings feel cosier, rather than reminding me that we are getting less daylight. I look forward to lighting those fragranced candles, turning on the twig lights and having a little sparkle around me as I relax. And yes, if the window is open you might hear the occasional strains of some of those golden oldie Christmas songs weeks before the big day arrives. I'm simply keeping those winter blues away and grabbing as much feel-good factor as I can!