If there is one year that Santa failed me, it was 1977. Between Christmas and Boxing Day, I received no less than THREE identical gifts, namely a copy of the book adapted from the then-newly released blockbuster film: “Star Wars: Episode IV — A New Hope”.
Mum and Dad gave me the first copy on Christmas morning, and yes — at age 9, I was very happy to receive it — having loved the recent film by George Lucas.
By the time someone gave me a SECOND copy the same day, it was clear Santa had made a mistake in the ordering department.
When I began unwrapping, however, the THIRD copy of “Star Wars, From the Adventures of Luke Skywalker” — in the searing heat (*) of my Grandpa’s front lawn on Boxing Day — Santa had clearly stuffed up!
“Oh how lovely,” my mother jumped in to say as the image of a lightsaber emerged beneath gift paper. “Paul LOVES the film!”
Rather than blaming Santa for stereotyping me so unidirectionally that year, it is fair to make one clear conclusion: I was already by that age— and have ever been since— one of the family’s clearly definable “introverts”.
A (Paul reads books)
+ B (Paul loves books)
+ C (Paul seems to spend a lot of time reading on his own)
Ever since, I have duly embraced the title and have happily read enough books, magazines and newspapers to populate a municipal library.
I have also gained in that time some handy principles for making Christmas Day a success despite the desire to retreat occasionally to the surrounds of a good book or re-running of the Godfather trilogy.
Here, dear fellow introverts, are my Christmas Top 10 Survival Tips:
1) Don’t assume you’ve got nothing to give because you’re not very good at backyard cricket
As an Australian, it is something of a tradition for a game of backyard cricket to be played on Christmas Day. This will occur usually despite the weather conditions, and in defiance of the neighbour’s previous threats to “keep your F$#@-in ball if it hits my shed again!”
The problem for me at least has been one of ability, or — personally — the lack of any actual skill to see, seek, grip, retain or hold any round object, especially cricket balls. (Don’t even get me started on the way I hold a bat!)
The family introvert — namely me — can find a good role as umpire or scorekeeper.
Failing that, secure a position at the sink in the kitchen where you can watch the game through the window. Everybody loves the sacrificial plate washer anyway.
“The problem for me at least has been one of ability, or — personally — the lack of any actual skill to see, seek, grip, retain or hold any round object, especially cricket balls. (Don’t even get me started on the way I hold a bat!)”
2) Be honest about needing to have a bit of time to absorb your gifts and potentially watch one of the movies Santa got you
Should anybody choose to buy me the Godfather trilogy this year, I may want to respond in two ways:
(A) “How lovely of you,” but I should point out that I already get the entire collection on at least two streaming services that I subscribe to, and
(B) Say “thankyou”, and ask if I can watch them immediately.
My love of The Godfather will require me to seek time to watch the films on Christmas Day, as soon as possible.
So I will need to be honest, but can do so in a very grateful way and insist that the gift-giver would “want me to check out the special features at least!”
3) Find someone else who looks a bit quiet
One of my great “go to” activities on Christmas Day is to seek out and find somebody to talk with who seems a bit like me: On the quiet side, and not terribly embarrassed to be seen talking with me.
I should note here that I have the BEST relatives in the world — seriously! I love spending time with my family, and I know they return the kindness ten-fold to me. What makes us such a tight unit is that we get how each other works.
Every Christmas, I always find someone to chat with for hours and catch up on their entire year.
Being a journalist, I ask probably too many questions, but it works well for me as an introvert, finding the “centre of attention” to be too difficult a location to handle in large company.
4) Offer to clean the dishes
I genuinely like cleaning. Having Multiple Sclerosis — and all the rotten fatigue, pain and cerebral fogginess that comes with it — rather curtails my abilities somewhat.
But — for an introvert like me — it’s an AWESOME job.
And, as mentioned earlier — you cannot go wrong being a dishwasher. Everybody loves the person who does the work nobody wants to do!
5) Ask someone to be your Christmas Buddy
Should you expect a particularly difficult day with friends whose decibel count on Christmas Day is a little akin to an aircraft engine, find someone ahead of time who will be good company and keep an eye on you.
At least make known to a loved one that you’re feeling a little under the weather or unable to mix too heavily. They’ll have your back.
6) Bring up a funny memory
Being old (turning 52 in January), and a lover of history, means I do have a rather vast store of family events and stories locked in my head. Sharing the occasional embarrassing or memorable topic is a great conversation starter if everything goes quiet and attention turns to me.
Just bringing it up usually gets everyone laughing and I can then enjoy seeing the rest of the family take over for me as I rest a bit from the attention.
7) Celebrate little milestones, and take notice of the positives, especially the people around you
It’s okay if you’re an introvert. It doesn’t mean you’re a failure or a bad person! It just means you are YOU!
Extroverts may be energised by those around them; you, more so by alone time.
Getting through a higher volume day with a sense of happiness and warmth with people who love you is something to be proud about, and seek more of.
In my case, family and friends mean the world to me — and they genuinely care for me, and want me to be happy, despite the lemons I’ve tasted in recent years due to illness.
8) Journal your progress
If you’re likely to find Christmas especially difficult, try making notes in your phone or in a concealable diary of good things you experience on the day.
“Granda told the same joke he said last year!” is something worth recording in a personal journal to note how hilarious family can be when they get together.
Or, better still: “Dad just spilled his entire craft beer collection over Mum while telling us all how he’d developed an excellent brew!” Boring information! But funny delivery.
9) Add some unique value
I like to keep an eye on three things on Christmas Day:
A) The weather (specifically the current temperature),
B) The news (alerting people of any breaking non-Trump-related news), and
C) Public transport information (mainly because I’m personally obsessed with public transport).
At least the first two of these three pieces of information represent something useful and interesting. And because others are too busy losing the cricket match or extinguishing the barbecue, you have vital information that they would otherwise miss.
10) Offer to be the Bin Elf
My favourite job on Christmas Day is to the family “Bin Elf”. This role requires you to have a roll of garbage bags on hand for the purposes of collecting rubbish from unwrapped presents and other once-festive detritus.
Again, like dishwashing, you will be deeply appreciated. And — for introverts — it will not require you to assume the role of “Stand-in Santa”.
Besides, I have never have quite gotten over 1977 anyway!
When I’m not writing, I’m reading other writing. When I’m not reading, I’m thinking about writing… I’d say that makes me a writer. (Subscribe to my newsletter and I’ll send you my words and thoughts.)
By the way, here’s something irrelevant but interesting related to the (*) footnote mark in this story: My Grandpa’s home in Hawks Nest, north of Sydney on Australia’s east coast, reached 36.1 degrees Celsius on Boxing Day 1977, or 96.98 Fahrenheit. I know this for two reasons. Firstly, Australia keeps remarkably comprehensive records of climate observations through our Bureau of Meteorology. Secondly, I know it because there is a Royal Australian Air Force base near where Grandpa lived, and the records of that location in Williamstown, New South Wales, are particularly extensive. You can see for yourself if you are anything like the nerd I am when it comes to history and data.