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Gary Martin: Feeling jaded about Christmas? Here’s how to embrace the festive spirit

Cast your mind back to the time when the festive season really felt like the most wonderful time of year.

You would wake up on Christmas morning lathered with excitement and ready to rip the wrapping from your presents ahead of a day of feasting on treats.

Then you got older and your enthusiasm for the Christmas spirit started to wane, almost to the point you started to take on Scrooge-like characteristics.

If your Christmas spirit has been on the decline as you’ve grown older, you are far from alone. Many of us seem to have lost our Christmas mojo yet struggle to explain why.

One explanation is the novelty of Christmas simply disappears as we age. As children we got swept up in the magic of Christmas because everything was new — 30, 40 or 50 Christmases later, there is nothing in our stocking that surprises us.

Some become dispirited because they do not have family to celebrate with, are separated from loved ones because of the pandemic or have strained family relationships.

There are also those who can no longer handle the Christmas cocktail of stress created by financial obligations, unrealistic pre-holiday work deadlines, the pressure to choose the right gifts and preparations for the big day.

Some of us simply have unreasonable expectations for Christmas. When we expect too much, disappointment is easily achieved. While your children once stayed with you for the full day, all grown-up they now only visit long enough to collect gifts and eat before scrambling off.

Many of us lose the festive feeling because we have become increasingly consumed by the commercial side of things, casting aside the meaning of Christmas. But it is not all doom and gloom. If your Christmas has lost its lustre this year, there is a way to suppress the inner Scrooge. You will not need to watch every festive movie, sing carols or decorate the tree.

Rekindling your Christmas flame requires you to take your mind off yourself and focus on serving others. That is what the festive season is really all about. Helping others makes us happier and lifts our spirits.

There is no shortage of ways to give to others. Perform random acts of kindness like giving a stranger a compliment, sending a praiseworthy text to a friend, leaving a note of thanks on a colleague’s desk or offering to cook for a family member or friend who appears under pressure. Serve others by donating goods to Christmas appeals and charities, giving possessions to those in need, doing volunteer work or sharing your talents and expertise with others.

And if you know of anyone spending Christmas Day alone, consider how you may involve that person in your own celebrations.

Not only will it bolster your own Christmas spirit but help someone else recapture the magic of the festive season.

Professor Gary Martin is chief executive officer with the Australian Institute of Management WA.

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