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scandinavian red and white christmas table setting by the life creative interiors

Does Christmas bring out the Best or Worst in You?

I am absolutely obsessed with Christmas.

Sadly, nobody around me tends to feel the same way. My partner cringes when I pump the Chrissy Carols (sidenote: Kylie’s Christmas album is my favourite!), nor does he understand my pedantic nature when it comes to ensuring my gift wrapping, cards, tags and ribbon are all colour coordinated every year. Total normal behaviour if you ask me.

Some members of my family could absolutely take it or leave it when it comes to the silly season, too. And let’s be honest; the cats only enjoyment this time of year is ripping the baubles off the tree, to see if I’ll finally go postal and let them run out the front door. It hasn’t worked the last 5 years they’ve tried it. They will never escape the compound!

So from about mid-November up until Christmas Day, I exist in my own little bubble; a world of whimsy, fun, colour, naivety and uninterrupted festive bliss.

It wasn’t always that way though.

Global Fusion Christmas Table Setting Ideas

Does Christmas bring out the Best or Worst in You?

Christmas used to stress me out terribly. Worrying about money, where to divide it, who to spend it on, and if I had everyone in the family covered. And of course, wondering how far out into the extended family you go with gift giving. It’s enough to send anyone broke and rocking in the corner like a blubbering mess.

And that’s not even taking into account figuring out how to divide your time on the day itself and actually attempting to enjoy all the rushing around on some level to consume Christmas lunch three times over.

A few years ago, though, I had an epiphany: I was going to let the stress completely wash over me. I was going to set a budget, write a list, tackle all of the present buying early (and online if possible), and have everything done and dusted before the mid-December craziness hit.

And it worked a treat.

Christmas Table Setting Ideas - Scandi Table Styling

Set your own stress-free traditions

I even put a stop to going out to see relatives on Christmas Eve. My partner and I started a tradition a few years back where we stay in, line up about 4 Christmas movies (a list of my faves are here), crack out the cheese and wine, flick on the Christmas tree lights, burn a festive-scented candle, and just revel in all the indoor-ness of the night before Christmas.

We each have a cat on our laps and there isn’t a worry in the world, apart from deciding what time to wake up in the morning to exchange gifts before we tackle the first of the Christmas lunches.

I also stopped worrying if people liked the presents I got them. In fact, I stopped asking what people wanted and just got them what I thought would be nice.

I give gifts now like I give compliments; with no expectation of anything in return. And it’s honestly completely liberating not to care! I keep all of the receipts, have them with me on the day and if someone wants to exchange, they’re welcome to.

Rachel Kennedy Designs Christmas Wrapping Paper

Forget the Material Things…

I also stopped expecting things at Christmas. I took my focus off yearning for particular material items and placed the focus on the people I was spending time with (even if they do drive me bonkers sometimes). In the last few years both myself and my partner have lost our brothers, and trust me when I say that time spent with loved ones is everything. Those losses have put a lot into perspective. The gifts are insignificant. The gestures are where it’s.

In short, Christmas now brings out the best in me and I try to let that energy rub off onto the people around me. It is so easy to get sucked into the Christmas stress vortex, but if you just keep telling yourself that it’s about the people, and not the things, I reckon it’s easier to avoid the worry, pain, bankruptcy and spiteful words (especially once you’re four wines into Christmas day and your ability to control what you say to an annoying relo is waning!).

Christmas Table Settings - French Ornate Table

Connect with the people who matter…

And on that note; a quick word on family, because I know that this time of year can bring out the worst between you and your relatives. One of the best things I realised early on in adulthood is that not everyone has to get along – even blood relatives!

You can still be completely civil and nice to someone but not put yourself in a situation for long periods of time that’s going to stress you out. Life’s too short for all that pain. Stay civil, let the stress wash over you and invest time in people you connect with.

So, does Christmas bring out the best or worst in you? Drop a comment below and share your stress-busting silly season tips with me and what you’re doing for your Christmas lunch!

This post includes images and/or videos of Metricon display homes and events, reproduced with permission. © Metricon Homes Pty Ltd 2016.


Chris Carroll

Outside of writing this blog, Chris is an interior designer, presenter and author. He’s also spent time on TV, on Channel 10’s Changing Rooms, as well presenting segments on Channel 7’s Sunrise and The Morning Show. If you’d like to book a design consult with Chris, you can find out more here

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11 Responses

  1. I am taking your advice this year, giving people things I like and think they will too, and am determined not to stress to much about if they really like them. I am trying to give things people will use, I always remember who gave me a gift when I use it, perhaps they will too.
    I am also totally ok with people regifting things they didn’t like, none of us need to hang onto things we don’t really like.
    The last 2 years we have hosted 20+ people for xmas lunch at it was fab. :ast year I did gold, eucalyptus and Australian animals as my theme (was super fun) and the year before was gold dots and pomegranates. I prefer not to be to traditional and have some fun.
    But this year we will be at our cottage in Victoria so I think it will be very scandi inspired, with lots of found decor from the farm. I am sure the gold spray will be getting a work out though, spray painting mini pine cones is just to hard to resist.
    All the best for your festive season

  2. Great post Chris. I too have spreadsheeted Christmas to within an inch of its life and it definitely has helped. I think you’re right though about changing your PERSPECTIVE and attitude to the whole season – that’s where I reckon I am going wrong. It’s not about me and how busy I am, it’s about spending quality time with loved ones, enjoying summer, sharing in the magic with the kids. Everyone would probably be equally thrilled if I just bought 30 store vouchers from Coles and tossed them through the air like confetti instead of spending 30 man hours pounding the pavement hunting for the perfect gift. And as for the events – I need to accept a few invitations to xmas lunch/drinks, and when panic starts to rise, start saying no… Put them in a priority list for a new year catch up or something (why do we all HAVE to get together NOW before dec 25!?!)
    And exhale….. Ok. I’ll give it a shot!!

    1. When you say shot… do you mean tequila? lol.

      I so agree re the gifts. I think some of us (myself included, in the past) spend hours in the shops getting stressed, and the recipients of the gifts honestly don’t understand what you went through to get it. And like you said, they’d be just as happy with a gift card. That’s not to say I don’t think it’s important to get gifts and carry out important gestures, but I think it’s about minimising your stress as much as possible.

      And yes to saying no more often. I have done it even in my everyday life with industry events and it’s helped a lot. Just…say…no lol. It’s so stress-busting.

  3. Christmas is truly my favourite time of the year. I am deep into planning this years christmas with majority of presents either purchased or picked out. Ive tried to do majority of my shopping online and through smaller aussie based businesses as well.

    Our theme is what I call traditional farmhouse style. Think creams, reds, greens and browns with lots of homemade items- rosemary wreath, cinnamon ornaments and a general homey feeling. Im just hoping my vision translates right and I can pull it off for the 40 people who will be over for our christmas dinner.

    Just writing all this down gets me excited.

    1. Oh wow Melinda – 40 people over my place for dinner is enough to give me sweaty palms and heart palpitations lol! I don’t know how you do it.

      That theme sounds awesome. If you’re on Instagram (I’m @tlifecreative) loop me into a picture. I love seeing all things Christmas styling 🙂

      Thanks so much for commenting and see you next Wednesday for another Conversation Series post!

      1. It gives me sweaty palms thinking about it too. It is my first time, so Im sure I will learn alot- most likely to never do it again.

        I have lists, a carefully selected (hopefully stress free) menu and action plans and Ive delegated some tasks to other family.

  4. Aghhhh ‘HELLO’ ….. You can re-direct those pesky people to me ploise! I hardly get anything for Christmas and I certainly ‘DONT’ get asked what ‘I’ want. ‘CAN SOMEONE PLEASE GET ME PERFUME’
    And ‘yes’ Chris I’m absolutely anal about my Christmas themes. This year I’m doing ‘scandi-heritage’; sounds complicated but it’s lots of raw birch and timber; red felt hand stitched ornaments and little wooden hanging thingy’s. As we have a white tree (which I love) I place a pure white sheepskin underneath and my window at the front is adorned with tiny little white houses which light up. Ok I can see some people rolling their eyes, I’ll go ……….

    1. haha Penny I think you need to leave a note out for someone at home: “Buy me perfume of heads will roll”! 😉

      And that theme sounds positively dreamy. I want some of the little houses! Are you on Instagram? I’d love to see a photo of the tree set up once you do it. I’m @tlifecreative on Insta.
      And trust me, nobody reading this blog rolls their eyes at design OCD. This is the place for design OCD!

      1. @tlifecreative ~ yes I am on Insta
        & also I lost my beautiful brother 17 yrs ago from HIV; also my other eldest brother & my closest sister 5 years ago to cancer. My dad died last year and mum is in a nursing home with ‘dementia & Alzheimers…so the whole family unit has been broken down as its basically just me and my two daughters 13 & 18; BUT I do carry on the same traditions & Christmas experiences my mum instilled ~ it’s hard missing them at Christmas but I’m learning to focus on what I have in my life

  5. Great post Chris. Especially the part about giving gifts as compliments.

    I get driven to distraction by people asking me what I want, I actually think it’s a little insulting. One year I registered at Myer to resolve the issue (like a bridal registry) but Myer mishandled it so they all complained.

    Now I get stressed by receiving “stuff” because my apartment is at maximum capacity. I ask them for experiences like a facial etc. In return I buy everyone tickets to a show. This year I am paying for everyone to see The Nutcracker Ballet. I don’t care if they would rather I bought them a book or an I-pod. They can bloody well enjoy my company for Christmas! Haha

    1. I so hear you, Justine! I sometimes find it insulting too. I would rather a surprise gift I don’t necessarily love than having to tell everyone exactly what I want. May as well go buy it myself, right? I think experiences are a fantastic idea – and I plan on stealing it for my own family (whether they like it or not lol). 😉

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I’m interior designer Chris Carroll, and at TLC Interiors we’re all about helping you create an amazing home without breaking the bank. It’s affordable designer style at its best, and we make the whole process easy and fun for clients & readers alike!

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