Top 10 Tips For Surviving Holiday Dinners

by Samantha on October 10, 2011

The holidays are great, for the most part.

‘Tis the season, as (Canadian) Thanksgiving is underway and the holiday season is just around the corner. 

With the happiness and anticipation of getting together for a cup of good cheer, as well as some good grub, let’s face it - there’s also some trepidation. At least that’s the case for many of us who don’t have the perfect family situations that are portrayed in many movies and TV shows.

Quite frankly, the thought of sitting down at the holiday table with the family casts a jolt of dread though a large group of folks who would much rather avoid what may turn out to be World War III. Whether it’s an irritating aunt who won’t let up on your “single” status, a drunken uncle who keeps on drinking (and insulting everyone present in the process) or sibling rivalry that has continued well into adulthood, it’s no wonder that the upcoming events of the season can be anxiety-inducing, to say the least. That being said, there are some tried-and-true tactics to get you through the events unscathed, regardless of who’s attending.

The Top 10 Tips For Surviving Holiday Dinners

1) Be Prepared - Get yourself into the right state of mind before breaking bread with loved (and not so loved) ones. Consider the situation, the lay of the land, the attendees and more. Find out who will be there, and if you learn that some of your less-liked relatives will in fact be sitting down to a meal at the same table as you, brace yourself and refer to tips #4 and #5.

2) Coat of Armour - Steel yourself. Okay, not literally, but figuratively. If you know that your cousin’s husband is a boor, expect to   hear his ridiculous comments and be prepared to be the bigger person and not call him on them. It’s only once a year that you have to deal with him, after all. 

3) Set Boundaries - Know what you can and can’t deal with. If some of the relatives in question are irritating but bearable, then grit your teeth and attend for the sake of the rest of the family. If the situation is completely untenable, then bail. It’s okay to say “no” and not attend because, after all, your sanity and peace of mind are worth it.

4) Accept What You Cannot Change - “It is what it is.” Repeat this mantra internally when you’re ready to pull your hair out at the antics of Aunt Betty. You won’t have to see her again until next year.

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5) Let Bygones Be Bygones - Let it go, don’t harbour old wounds. Attending a gathering with a combative state of mind will only stir things up and make things more difficult than they have to be. Be the bigger person and leave the past behind.

6) Stay on the Wagon - As much as alcohol is often part of the festivities over the holidays, it can no doubt add fuel to the proverbial fire, if you know what I mean. One or two drinks might be okay in a tense situation, but if you are really stressed about a couple of dinner attendees, don’t drink in excess. You may say or do things that you will regret later.

7) Be Positive - It’s true that the best indicator of present behaviour is past behaviour, but this doesn’t mean that people can’t change. Just because Uncle Jim is usually a jerk every holiday gathering doesn’t necessarily mean that he hasn’t changed this year. Who knows: maybe he’s had a change of heart and seen the error of his ways. Give him the benefit of the doubt and you may be surprised.

8) Remember: Nobody’s Perfect - You may feel irritated by certain family members’ behaviours, but try to keep in mind that no one is perfect. The holidays are a great time to put ourselves in check and perhaps ask whether we’ve been a bit harsh, or have set up unrealistic standards for others. Even if the answer is “no,” now is a good time to be more forgiving of others’ foibles and weaknesses.

9) Put out Fires - If you’re able to do some damage control before the big event, do so. This may mean reaching out to that relative who has irked you for years. Instead of stressing out about seeing him or her at the family dinner, extend an olive branch if you can and make amends. Your subsequent get-together will be so much more enjoyable.

10) Remember Why You’re There - It’s all about family, loved ones, good times and gratefulness. Enjoy the time together and remember - we don’t choose our relatives, so make the best of what you’ve got!

What are some of your tips for getting through the holidays and family gatherings? 

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Brooke October 11, 2011 at 2:46 pm

Hello! Just found your blog via Dear Crissy on Facebook.


avatar Samantha October 11, 2011 at 2:48 pm

@Brooke Great! Welcome Brooke!


avatar OneMommy October 11, 2011 at 6:48 pm

Having a schedule of whose house we go to for each holiday has helped us!


avatar Samantha October 11, 2011 at 7:14 pm

@OneMommy That definitely helps - knowing who is entertaining each year, as well as when and where. With this method, you at least feel some sense of control - as well as knowing when the festivities will end. Thanks for commenting :)


avatar Jennifer Pereyra November 23, 2011 at 1:52 am

These are all great tips!


avatar Samantha November 23, 2011 at 3:06 am

@Jennifer Pereyra Thanks, Jen!!


avatar Vinobaby December 10, 2011 at 8:48 pm

Nice tips. Now if I can just keep the relatives from getting trashed and making themselves the life of the party…gotta love the holidays!


avatar Samantha December 12, 2011 at 2:39 pm

@Vinobaby Hey - if they're going to get "trashed" refer to tips #4 and #8 in particular and take a deep breath!


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