Conflict resolution: Stop the Christmas quarrel!

For some ears it certainly sounds like a bad joke when Christmas is called the “feast of love”. For many people there is nothing cosy and homey about it, but rather stressful and stress-eating. Some would find barbed wire on the Christmas tree more suitable than tinsel. Some think of “O, thou merry, merry” more as a line: “O thou wretched, tempestuous Christmas quarrel!”

Because in many flats and houses, apart from fatty food and alcohol, there is above all: quarrelling. It’s not “Silent night, holy night” but “stink till it crashes”. What can you do when your Christmas celebration is not only sizzling in the oven, but also seething between the people involved? Our Christmas fighting guide will help you.

Why are there so many fights at Christmas?

The circumstances are simply very inviting to lose control over one’s feelings. Preparation stress, gift madness, end-of-year stress, everything emotionally overcharged and full of memories – some people are nervous. No wonder, when feelings that have been piled up there are unloaded in a loud noise.

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Different families deal with this unfortunate Christmas tradition in different ways. Some of them fight until their voices break down, others limit the time spent together to the absolute essentials – yet others prefer not to meet at all. Some really go at each other.

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But all this does not have to be, the noise can be contained or even mediated. Take a closer look at the reasons for the quarrel, there are always similar topics that lead to a rift. There are solutions for everyone as long as you or the respective hosts make clear announcements. Here are a few ideas.

How do I manage conflicts on the subject of politics?

It is good and important that people talk about politics. Also and especially in the family. But when huge gulfs open up politically in Christmas society, for example when uncle Heinz is a convinced economic liberal and nephew Justin is active in the Green Youth, you should perhaps agree that certain political topics should be excluded. Nobody wants people to go at each other with poultry shears because of the diesel scandal or the climate issue.

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If there really is someone in your ranks who chooses right-wing agitators, another solution is possible. According to the Pope, Mary and Joseph were virtually refugees when Jesus was born. So when the birth of the Child Jesus is celebrated, positions of refugee enemies have no place there. A simple argument to silence agitators or even better: to unload them. After all, not everyone wants to be silent at the celebration.

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How do I deal with arguments about religion?

Each person can and should position himself or herself as he or she wishes with regard to conflicts of faith and scandals in the church. But to start a fundamental debate on the sense and nonsense of faith on the occasion of a religiously shaped feast at a laid table is not only absurd but divisive. Anyone who wants to discuss religion at Christmas, whether Christian or not, will certainly find online forums where this is possible.

Or at a late hour with like-minded people a corner where this can be discussed.

In return, however, the religious participants should also take into account that not everyone wants to pray or recite psalms before Christmas dinner. If all religious and non-religious feelings are taken into account, there is no reason for quarrel. After all, it is Christmas!

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How do I behave in case of family conflicts?

The main reason for noise in the family is usually right there. Little animosities, jealousy, envy, old resentment – there is probably no family without these things. Sometimes it’s the resentment of uncle Heinz that nephew Justin hasn’t tidied the garage for him as promised. Sometimes it’s the three generations old hatred of one half of the family for the other because of an inheritance dispute.

You’ll have to weigh that up on a case-by-case basis: Can a compensation or even a solution be found for this today (like with uncle’s garage)? Then offer to sit down with the squabblers in a separate room for 20 minutes and sort it out. Or even better: DIE sit in there for half an hour, and in the meantime, you go for a jog.

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Or is this such an old, entrenched conflict where the fronts are so hardened and the resentment is so deep that nothing can be done about it (inheritance dispute)? Then you should say it just that way – and admonish the disputants to moderation. Motto: Silence or go. And when asked: No, food fight is not an option.

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Also remind all participants how long they have been carrying the topic around with them, how little they have moved in all these years, and how little sense it makes to start again now. But also remind the brawlers of what unites them despite their differences. Bring back memories of fun earlier parties where everyone had a lot of fun. Whitewash the argument with good humour and common ground – that’s what most people go to such events for.

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What should I do in the event of a dispute over nullity?

Usually it is not the big problems, but the small and everyday problems that determine the conversation at the banquet table, and sometimes arguments flare up. Often the reason for the quarrel is not at all in a certain topic, but in the life situation of the individual participants. After a few glasses of holiday alcohol, the dams are often bursting and the frustration about all sorts of things, which has accumulated over the year, is released.

If someone tries to take his thick neck out on other participants of the festival, you must strictly stop him. And that doesn’t just mean you, but everyone around the table. The message is: “We understand your frustration and also your anger – but here at the table it is nobody’s fault. So don’t be an ass. Tell us what’s bothering you.” Because that’s what families and friends are for: to help each other when they have problems.

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How do I deal with personal hostilities?

Many a dispute needs no reason, not even a topic. The protagonists* have been spinning their wheels for years and are just waiting for the opportunity to inject each other with poison again. The only solution: Don’t give them one. You read that correctly: Make sure that these people don’t end up at a table in the first place.

If two people can’t smell each other at all and don’t want to put their personal animosities aside even for the duration of a meal together, they should stay at home. By the way, this applies in principle to people who are always stirring up trouble and causing discord through their scheming manner: Stay away.

It sounds tough, yeah. Especially for the feast of love. But it’s the only way it’ll be one for the peacemakers. And for the quarrelsome, it may be a wake-up call. Oh, this is about you and your mother-in-law? Well, condolences. …it’s like a crisis in relationships…

What to do in acute relationship crises?

Hardly anything burdens a common festive gathering as much as a relationship or marriage that is about to break up. As a rule, the two people involved have already celebrated Christmas together, and everything is fraught with feelings and memories. So the emotional overload of this celebration gets an extra boost.

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Therefore, the clear announcement, whether your relationship is affected or that of someone else at the table: Advise beforehand in an intimate circle whether the affected persons want to do this to themselves, whether both partners will get through it. Perhaps there is still so much of a common feeling of togetherness that the celebration will rekindle old happiness?

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If there is no more firing, it is better to plan separately. If you’re not sure, but want to try, create retreats for the evening – either to talk or to come down (each*er for himself) to regain strength. This way it is easier to share the beautiful moments of the party. And in the end, these should outweigh the others.

The argument at Christmas is usually based on things that have nothing to do with the feast itself. If you are aware of this and address and moderate existing conflicts in advance, you can avoid the worst noise. In any case, we wish you a peaceful and contemplative Christmas that is as free of conflict as possible!