Around this time of year in Ancient Rome they celebrated the festival of Saturnalia, a holiday in honour of the sowing god, Saturn. There was much drinking, sexual indulgence and singing songs naked in the streets.. It was a raucous festival and the highlight of the year. Masters swapped roles with their slaves and served them dinner, presents were given and greenery was put up as decorations.
There is still a lot of merry making, parties and alcohol consumption today. Research shows a peak in sexual activity in the Christmas holiday as well as increased rates of unsafe sex, unplanned pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections. People take more sexual risks when they are drunk, so if you’re planning on drinking know your limits, stock up on condoms and be safe.
If you are burnt out from attending every Christmas function, try skipping some and spend a quiet night in with your lover. Plan sex in advance so that sex doesn’t make it to the bottom of your priorities or if you’re both too exhausted then stay connected through cuddles and affection. If you must attend a tricky family event, try setting up boundaries about how long you stay and how you will interact with difficult people.
We can struggle with memories of people we used to have with us at this time of year or we can feel the lack of the supportive and loving family or partner that we don’t have. Combined with a partnership that may already be under pressure or for pressure from family if you’re single- Christmas holidays can trigger deep emotions.
Some single men recently surveyed said they dreaded Christmas more than Valentines Day. It can be a very lonely time for some, so reach out to others if you might be spending it alone; you could do volunteer work or keep it simple with a few friends. Setting up high expectations that you should be with family having a great time when the reality can be starkly different can bring about disappointment.
Research shows that couples are more likely to break up in the two weeks before Christmas, suicide rates increase after Christmas Day and there’s even a day called “Blue Monday” in January where the post Christmas sadness reaches its lowest trough.
Don’t be hard on yourself. As another year closes we can punish ourselves or our partner for not reaching our goals or New Years Resolutions. This is a time to be gentle on ourselves and others. Embrace self acceptance and self forgiveness.
I see Christmas as as an exciting holiday where we can open ourselves up to more pleasure and love. We will only set ourselves up for exhaustion and failure if we strive for a perfect Christmas. Let’s embrace the imperfections and aim for a jolly season! If things are getting too much and you are overwhelmed with stress, then try to breathe slowly. Just tell yourself the following words, “Breathe in peace, breathe out love” and really visualise that happening.
Catherine O Dowd
Sex Therapist- Relationship Counsellor- Arts Psychotherapist