Debunking 5 Holiday Myths
The single best way to cope with familial turmoil is to give up the hope that your relatives will suddenly become cornucopias of emotional health. Instead of yearning for a perfect family, listen to teacher Byron Katie, author of the book I Need Your Love—Is That True? "If I had a prayer," she writes, "it would be this: 'God spare me from the desire for love, approval, and appreciation. Amen.'" This sounds harsh if you've never experienced freedom from these desires, which comes when you accept yourself. Try one of Katie's exercises: Imagine drinking a cup of tea with a family member, without attempting in any way to get love, approval, or appreciation. You'll suddenly feel safer, more resilient, more at peace. Paradoxically, you get this blessed feeling by not grasping for it. Make Katie's exercise a reality by considering your family holiday a BYOLAA event—bring your own love, approval, and appreciation. The philosopher Lao-tzu said that when you do this, "you naturally become tolerant, disinterested, amused, kindhearted as a grandmother."
It's far easier to let go of judgment or competitiveness and reach this contented place when you aren't intent on forcing people to be what they're not. And you invite inner peace when you stop trying to force yourself either to change your relatives or to think of them as sane. By acknowledging your own infinite value, you'll see more value in others—just as they are. You may even stumble across a surprising holiday gift: the understanding that truly "going home" happens within you, the moment you give yourself the unconditional acceptance you thought you needed from your kin.
— Martha Beck
Start by wearing one color from head to toe for a chic, slimming look. "Stylists do this all the time," he says, "because it's a great way to use what you already have." To pull it off properly, Boston suggests a fitted black turtleneck and black trousers, winter white pants with your best white blouse, or a sweater set and skirt in an unexpected shade like pink, yellow, or coral ("sets you apart from Santa's helpers"). Look for anything that has a subtle shine, such as light-catching leather, suede, or matte satin.
For accessories, skip the miniature Christmas tree brooch and instead aim for simplicity: diamond studs, elegant pearls—real or fake—or three stacked bracelets on one arm with your shirt cuffs rolled up. "You might feel underdressed at first, but the look has a modern edge," says Boston. If you do want to buy something festive, try vintage stores for an inexpensive beaded bag or a fabulous pair of earrings. "Mix things up," advises Boston, "and trust your taste—that's what separates stylish women."
— Cindy M. del Rosario Tapan
With some small adjustments, it can also seem as though there's just as much loot as last year. Wrap everything individually (a two-piece outfit or a toy with several parts, for example) so each child has more bundles with her name on them. Or think of small, fun things you can package as gifts. "If you have a rule against sugary cereal, wrap up a box of Cap'n Crunch," says Sonna. "Kids love coupons—give them each a voucher for one morning of not having to make their beds."
To help build excitement—and prolong the process—make the family open gifts one at a time, "instead of a mad dash where it's over in two seconds." And keep in mind that you may be the only one taking note of any cutbacks. "Kids under 8 usually don't remember what they got the previous year," says Sonna. So if Santa's load is a little lighter this time around, only you will be the wiser.
— Jenny Bailly
As the invitations start piling up, just follow a few guidelines in narrowing the field. "I always support good friends first, because I'd expect the same from them," says Cowie. "I pick their events over business ones in a heartbeat." (That said, you are obliged to raise a glass of eggnog with your boss at the official company shindig.) Big cocktail parties are easier to skip because your absence is less noticeable. "And the two Saturdays before Christmas are so hectic, people understand if you're booked," Cowie says.
Once you accept an invitation, though, stick to it. If you can't make it at the last minute, call the host that afternoon to leave a voice mail explaining. "Call the next day, too, to apologize again," says Cowie. A little groveling goes a long way this time of year.
— Jenny Bailly
Judy Ford, author of Single: The Art of Being Satisfied, Fulfilled, and Independent, recommends you tune out the message. "Being dateless is not a tragedy, a calamity, or an affliction," she says. Instead of looking for late-December love, spend the time planning your dream evening, whether it's a lavish dinner party for one (Ford favors lobster and a martini) or a night of bar-hopping with your most fun-loving friends. And Fielding suggests you focus all the while on one of the best parts of being single: "You have the opportunity to shag an attractive stranger without fear of reprisals."
— Justine van der Leun
See 5 more holiday myths debunked.