Home About This Week On Dr. Phil DrPhil.com
December 23rd, 2010 by Dr. Phil

The Great Holiday Pause

Christmas family2My dad used to say holidays are that time of the year when you get thrown together with people whom you don’t really know that well or have much in common with any more. You spend way too much time with them — sometimes long, almost endless days, jammed into a space that’s way too small — and make each other miserable! Ya-hoo! Santa Claus, right? Ha! My dad really wasn’t a humbug; he was just joking about how we sometimes “over expect” when it comes to the holidays and forget the reality of it all.

Hopefully, you’re excited about your upcoming holiday gathering. I know I am. We don’t focus much on the gifts, but we sure enjoy the time together. If you are like a lot of families, there is always one (or more) family member or family friend you would rather not see. Deep down, you’re already dreading this jerk showing up. Don’t we all have the “Uncle Harry” or “Aunt Busybody” who would rather start trouble than anything else? You might be worried that some conflict from the past will come up, or that a long-time disagreement will raise its ugly head.

Regardless of what religious meaning the holidays might hold for you, they should also be a time to say, “Let’s call a time out, take a deep breath and enjoy the day.” The holidays do not have to be the time to solve all your problems or resolve your conflicts. If it is worth talking about in December, trust me, it will still be “hot” in February, so save it until then!

I’ve always believed that rituals play an important part in creating a rhythm in a family and making the holidays more enjoyable. Around the McGraw household on Christmas Eve, when our sons, Jay and Jordan, were younger, we conducted rocking chair interviews in front of the tree. Robin and I also let the boys have their own Christmas tree in the bedroom that they could decorate any way they wanted. On Christmas morning, it is old-fashioned biscuits made from scratch and country ham. Yeah, I know, I know. We’re as country as a corncob pipe! Whether you bake certain foods together, tell stories around the fireplace or worship together, these family traditions help to create a spirit of acceptance and loving interaction in your household — a spirit that can set the tone for the rest of the year.

You know, I’m always moved by those old stories I read of soldiers from both sides of the battlefield who, on Christmas Eve, put down their guns, pause for a moment, and either sing a carol, light a candle or read some Scripture. Yes, of course, the battle resumed the next day. There was not permanent peace on earth. But the significance of that one little moment was not lost. It gave the soldiers a chance to believe in a better, different world. In the end, isn’t that what the holidays are all about?

Tags: , ,

25 Responses to “The Great Holiday Pause”

  1. Joyce says:

    I just Love life and The holidays. It seems like it is the only time u ever see your family all together !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  2. Charmaine says:

    I remember you saying on your show last year about doing the rocking chair interviews with your boys and absolutely intend on doing that with my kids this year. I cannot wait to hear their answers to my questions already. Thanks so much for sharing such a beautiful tradition with us. Merry Christmas to you and all your family.

  3. Linda says:

    Thank you Dr. Phil for your holiday message! Your ability to touch and support people is amazing! I needed to hear that message and I will reflect on it in the coming days. I always “over expect” and I am trying to change my expectations.
    May your holidays be joyous and full of laughter and love!

    God Bless you!

    Linda

  4. Ashley says:

    When I have kids, I don’t want them to overexpect either. When I was growing up, there were a couple of years when my family had more money so they went all out on us kids. Then when my stepdad’s pay was cut so we seemed to get less and less each year, and I have to admit it was a little of a disappointment, mainly feeling sorry for our family as a whole because we had less money to go around, not really because I was upset I didn’t get as many presents as the previous year. But when I have a family of my own, I want to stress family togetherness and fun. And a few thoughtful gifts as well.

  5. Stephanie Eyerly says:

    Im just happy & hope that I can/am teaching her to be happy with family & friends when she is older.She is 4 & wants for nothing & I hope to continue with that teaching

  6. DEAR DR. PHIL, 11 YEARS AGO I STARTED A NEW TRADITION WITH MY FIRST GRANDCHILD, I WANTED HER AND ALL THE OTHERS AS THEY CAME INTO THE WORLD TO LOOK AT CHRISTMAS DIFFERANTLY THEN MY CHILDREN. SO MY HUSBAND AND MYSELF CELEBRATE WITH GIFT GIVING, BUT MOST IMPORTANTLY ALL THE GRANDCHILDEN LISTEN TO THERE PAPPA AND THERE MEME SING (MARY DID YOU KNOW) AND THEN WE FINISH WITH A BIRTHDAY CAKE FOR BABY JESUS WITH BLOWING OUT THE CANDLES. THEY ALL LOOK FORWARD TO THIS EVERY YEAR AMEN. MERRY CHRISTMAS TO YOU,ROBIN AND YOUR FAMILY. TRUDY

  7. Lindy Jones Zywot says:

    My favourite Christmas memory is of the year we got snowed in & no one was able to get to our place for the formal Christmas Dinner. I know that sounds awful ,but it was just my Mum ,Dad, Brother & I. We didn’t have to be as uptight as we did when all the Elder Relatives were there. It was just us.
    Now I have my own Family & I hate leaving my house on Christmas day. We will be minus one,for the first time, this year & I’m finding it difficult.Skype will be our friend this time around. We have to roll with life’s changes !!!

  8. Blossem says:

    goodevening dr.phil..here in holland it is not traditional to gather around the fire and tell stories on christmas..but i would like to begin with a traditon Any tradition but i don’t know how or what…the second christmas evening my kids, 21-19-19-15 are at home and in holland it is tradition to sit down for a gourmet…when that’s done everybody falls down in the couch watch some television or play same games on their p.c. or x box..i’m mostly in the kitchen for the dishwashing (by hand!)…can you give me ANY idea for something to do? kindly regards blossem

  9. Pat Vance says:

    I thank you for your blog and the context has really hit home with me. I have had a lot of time this last year to think over the way I treat people and hopefully I have done a 180 turnaround. I have been battling and hopefully winning the fight over a very serious illness for most of this year and boy does it give your life a new perspective. I asked myself how do I want to be remembered and I have hopefully set my path to be that person. I have come to realize that I want to be thought of as a peacemaker, joyful, humble, giving, loving. Also one who accepts all as they are and only give my opinion if someone asks for it. As I celebrate this Christmas, I am so grateful to be here that the way others act doesn’t really matter. I am thankful they are in my life.

  10. Monika moore says:

    Dr.Phil I am the mother of a only child… in the first few years i gave him ton of gifts on Christmas mainly from guilt of him not havin a father around.. I met a wonderful man who has been in my sons life for over four years nowmy son is 6 yrs old when he was four i decided he needed to learn the True meaning of Cnristmas..We started only buyin him 3 gifts for Christmas.. If you ask him today why santa only brings 3 gifts he will say Cause baby Jesus only got 3 gifts from the 3 wisemen on his birthday and who am i to get more gifts than he did on his birthday lol it may not be much of a lesson but its a good start..Merry Christmas

  11. Diana Gramm says:

    This year I plan to spend Christmas alone watching movies all day. The rest of the family all has their own little family units that they are spending the day with. I’ve hated holidays for years anyhow, so this one saved me all the stress of decorating & buying & preparing. I’m planning it to be just any other Saturday except everything’s closed. Yes, I am a scrooge. Bah Humbug.

  12. Carter says:

    I don’t have family so I don’t really do holidays. I’m cooking myself a small Christmas dinner just so I won’t feel completely abnormal but I usually find something to do like go to the movies or dive into a creative project of some sort. I think the worst aspect of holidays is having to answer questions like, “So what did you do for the holidays.” I usually say I spent it with some friends that the person asking doesn’t know. Pathetic, I know, but we all have to cope somehow. This is what seems to work for me.

  13. Thanks for your insights Dr Phil, enjoy your articles and show, my wife is your biggest fan. She hates the housewifes and we don’t watch that show anymore, bunch of spoiled *******, but we really enjoy the other shows.
    Thanks and keep up the good work.
    Greg

  14. DOES “SANTA CLAUS” destroy the TRUE MEANING (GOD’S MESSAGE) of CHRISTMAS?! HELL NO!!! :) I’m gonna xplain. What do We Love SO MUCH about Xmas? Watching our young children’s eyes LIGHT UP when they see ALL OF SANTA’S (GOD’S) GIFTS UNDER THAT TREE 4 THEM 4 BEING GOOD and still BELIEVING in HIM. What pisses us PARENTS (GODS) OFF BEYOND BELIEF ABOUT XMAS? ITS when SOMEONE HAPPILY TELLS OUR CHILD SANTA ISNT REALLY “REAL” AND THAT CHILD STOPS BELIEVING! 9 Dont tell ME SANTA ISNT REAL!!! It Does NOT MATTER “WHO REALLY” wrapped those gifts and snuck them under THAT BEAUTIFUL TREE!!! THAT IS PURE MAGIC (GOD’S POWER) that brought those presents there Xmas Eve nite. When u r young, he’s called Santa CLaus in this country and he has MANY NAMES (RELIGIONS PEOPLE!!!) And we PARENTS (GOD TO OUR CHILDREN) DELIGHT AT THE MAGIC OF OUR COLLECTIVE POWER HERE ON EARTH TO MAKE OUR CHILD’S WISHES COME TRUE!!! JUST LIKE GOD GREATEST WISH FOR ALL !!! PEOPLE!!! DO U HEAR ME, DR PHIL???!!! CAN I GET A WITNESS???!!! SHE (I) TRUSTS U!!!

  15. Alice Stephenson says:

    Definitely, Dr. Phil. The epitome of “Let Go and Let GOD” IS PEACE. I was just reading a news story about how in World War I there was a Christmas Truce.

    I was going to go to Christmas Eve Candle Light Service tonight (walk) as I’ve often done at the Church on top of the Hill of a Street w/same name as my mom, Betty Jane. Beautiful back down the hill when by then all the Christmas lights on. Unfortunately, I woke up with a headache I nursed most all day. Fortunately, though, I’ve been going on some Christmas Light strolls lately so… and still may walk to corner and back to enjoy Christmas lights since headache easing up…

    Finally, headache going away THANK GOD. Somehow made shrimp w/minestrome soup for lunch while we watched game show Jeopardy & shrimp for dinner. I know an odd combination yet our menu IS determined by what’s on sale as I aim for saving 50% each grocery trip. That’s not all bad because New York Strip steak w/bell pepper & a vine ripe tomato tomorrow that I got on sale for less than half price Christmas Day menu.

    This is the first time in 24 years we had Christmas Eve here just us & will have Christmas Day here tomorrow. I was considering going to go to my home town High School Christmas Dinner that tastes like my grandmother’s & take my handicapped brother. However, he is ill & I’m not sure he’s going to recover this time… Not in the way you may think… and I don’t want to think about yet have reached a conclusion you mention in one of your books w/o elaborating…

    So Lynn had a nap w/Eddie and I had a nap w/Lassie and I was just thankful I still see blessings amidst the unexpected chaos.

    I realize not likely I’ll get my Christmas Wish of a medical, dental & visual makeover that isn’t an unrealistic wish yet would take a Christmas Miracle. I’ve never expected I would yet have prayed & believed SELF MATTERS includes me and I’m worthy of. Things could be worse… yet I’m so thankful aren’t. (Knock on wood) and i did. I was blind sided by a few tragedies that popped up yet I’m still standing as a firm response rather than reacting.

    So on that final note MERRY CHRISTMAS to all (as per each of our own time zones) and to all a good Christmas Eve night. My gift is my prayer for us all and all those dear to us to always be blessed and to not miss a single blessing prayed our ways. So keep your eyes open for believing you’ll see is the main ingredient. Amen and Amen.

  16. jennifer says:

    Merry Christmas everyone. I’m so glad that Jesus made such a sacrifice for us all in both his birth & death. After all that is what christmas is all about.

  17. Dr. Mcgraw,
    It’s common knowledge that our families get more like themselves in emotionally intense times, good or bad.

    People can prepare themselves before the event, (or all the time) by the language they use, the thoughts they think, and a commitment to watch and control their own responses. I’m disappointed and believe it’s wrong to call someone a “jerk” or to play that endless loop tape of yesterday. Remember the pancake, two-sided?

    This is a time to let go of the problems, including name-calling. It’s a time to offer ourselves to the most obnoxious, hard-to-love family and friends. Just like Jesus. Instead of dodging and darting around to avoid having to speak to the other imperfect works-in-progress, walk right up to them, look them in the eye and ask about their well-being. Listen to the answers. I find that I feel better about myself and them. Most of the dread leaves. It can be surprising then, how little that person requires of us. Listen. Really. And even if the new response does nothing but feed the smug self-righteousness of the arrogant, (a little bit in all of us) maybe there’s a little less friction with others. Take the high road. Seek to serve others, like Jesus. It works. Feel your heart shift. Step carefully, you might have too much fun.

    At times when I’ve disagreed with you, I’ve thought about asking you to have a sparring match. It could get lively. I hope I’m not shooting myself in the foot by offering a couple of observations. Several times I’ve heard you say that you’re the least judgmental person you know. Phil, that’s a judgement, of millions of people whom you judge to be more judgemental than you. Calling someone a jerk fits in somewhere.

    Jesus said “That which you have done for the least of these, so have you done for me.” Maybe we are the least of these.

  18. Rosemary says:

    Your advise about taking a time out and not trying to resolve problems or conflicts made all the difference in Christmas this year. This was the best Christmas ever, seriously I took your advice and did not let anyone or anything take away the Reason for the Season. I love your advice and have learned so much from your wisdom.
    May God bless you and your family special.

  19. Hazel Bonham says:

    I would love to see you do a show on children born with PKU. Our great grand child was the first time I ever heard of it. He is on a very low protein diet and must drink protein drinks every day because his body is missing an enzyme to process protein like most of us. Failure to follow the diet could cause mental retardation. Our grand son is doing well in school and has been placed in the Gifted and Talented class at school. We are so thankful for that. However, I feel so sorry for him because he can have such limited amounts of the food he really wants, like cheese, pasta, pizza and ice cream. He doesn’t seem to miss meat and beans because he has never had them. He is almost 9 years old.

  20. And even if the new response does nothing but feed the smug self-righteousness of the arrogant, (a little bit in all of us) maybe there’s a little less friction with others. Take the high road. Seek to serve others, like Jesus. It works. Feel your heart shift. Step carefully, you might have too much fun.

  21. Robin sue francis says:

    Can you get robin to flower me and your son jordan

  22. Robin sue francis says:

    My moms name is Lauren francis please considers her being a part of your fondantion thanks robin

  23. vince says:

    for the first time in my life of 53 years i spent christmas numb in my heart and confused in my mind, ya see i was kicked out 2 days b4 christmas, but ya know what dr phil, i lived through it all, thank god i had the one friend i do have, they saved me from sleeping under a bridge in freezing weather,my son has a b day in just 7 days, i cant even bring my self to call him and wish him a happy b day, just b4 xmas, i was in rehab being put back on geodon and was not able to attend a surprise b day party for my mom on dec 26th as she turned 79, doc i was so numb i did not even wish jesus a happy b day this year, now i spend every moment of time looking for ANY reason to just live, the idiots at the rehab sent me out the door packing 5 bottles of geodon, and i cant bring my self to taking the meds no longer, all i ever really wanted to know in this life was the real b day date of jesus, hell doc man can prove planet earth has been here for billions of years, but not one living soul knows jesus”s b day, i do know jesus is real, hell 23 years ago i was with jesus as i laied on a opp table having my guts cut out due to being shot with a hunting arrow, ya know the kind that explodes and the razors spring out from the tip, dr phil jesus talked to me that night and took me on a journey through time, people say i cant depict real from unreal, whear jesus took me was very real dr phil, and if i can never do any good in life at least i CAN tell the world i got to visit jesus and come back to life and remember his voice and words,as jesus looked into my life to the point that almost ended my life he was angry and i was at the very gates of hell doc, i was not forgiven at that point, doc jesus took me into my feture and showed me alot of things and events, and people think im skidso for trying to find a way to let people in the world who think jesus is not real know that jesus is very real, i guess it just wernt ment to be tho, hell even my family thinks im skidso, dr phil jesus told me i was not disabled i was just lazy, and jesus also told me i was not forgiven, that i must get forgiven to be forgiven, it was and still is confusing, but here is one fact i know is true, toys are for kids christmas is for ALL, and no matter if your with your loved ones or not, jesus is always watching over ALL, doc just one time i wish i was able to watch you tell Jesus happy birth-day on your show to get the world to just look past all the gifts in life from family and just remember Jesus did die for ALL so ALL can meet God, Jesus gave me the greatest gift any one could ever want, Jesus saved me and gave me more time on earth, dr phil all the money on earth cant buy what i got to see with my own 2 eyes, 23 years ago, getting shot 23 years ago was the best thing that could have ever happened in my life, i GOT TO MEET GOD IN PERSON, what can even come close to matching Gods gift? this is what keeps me from ending my life on earth doc, and if i tell Jesus happy birthday every day for a year, ill tell him on his real b day for sure. mans reacord keeping sure as hell wont help will it doc lol, christmas can be good for people who think there alone, cause your never alone, Jesus is always very near, if ya dont post this its ok i already know every one thinks im a skidso, but if this was what it took to be with jesus its worth it too me, as for the lable pinned on me well ill just ask ya, who ya gunna believe man or Jesus?

  24. Kelly hooton says:

    Hi Dr. Phil, I just watched your episode on ALexandra, I’ve been following your show about her and her family. I just wanted to mention that I am 42 and I didn’t find out til I was 34 that I was born with a form of spina bifida and I have lived with pain since I’ve been 12. I went in 2000 and had a back surgery and had part of my spinal cord removed. Then I went again in 2007 and had 4 vertebras fused and screwed together. I also had 3kids during this time not knowing my situation. I also have degenerative disc disease as well as know upper back problems. I as well was on oxycontin and dilaudid for 6 years but took it as prescribed and never became addicted to this medication. I know take zytram, lyrica and naproxen as prescribed. I still suffer with constant pain to the point that I have been medically retired. My point is that I know as well as the next person what it’s like to live in constant severe pain and the aggravation of this but, I also never became addicted to legal drugs either and I did go through 2 agonizing surgeries. The second being 14 hrs long and a very long healing process. My opinion is as such that Alexandra is using her accident as a crutch to continue her use of this medication. As well if this medication is used properly it will serve it’s purpose and trick you into thinking you feel better but, it also will not make you high. I wish I could tell Alexandra my experience with pain and medication and that I will say I probably have maybe a 40 percent improvement and that I took 2 big risks having these surgeries but any relief from some pain is a risk worth taking. Good luck to you getting through to her. Thank you and continue with the great show.

  25. Timi Jo Thacker says:

    I bought book 17-day diet. Went on it with no cheating. In 4 days I have gained 3 lbs. Help!

Leave a Reply