To be stressed out? It’s not too early to start thinking about the stress Christmas can cause in many families. Every year we read about how domestic violence statistics rise at this time of the year due to the stresses of the season. But we don’t have to talk about extremes of violence to agree that a reduction in stress levels could be good for everyone. Over the years I’ve noticed how some Spanish families I know have taken measures to make the season more relaxing for everyone – including the matriarch who so often gets overloaded with the task of entertaining one crowd after another. When I was a student living with a family in Alicante, I recall how my host mother put her foot down ever year after a wild Christmas Eve cooking for the whole clan. The family didn’t have a lot of money, but Christmas Day dinner was held at a restaurant – one with a simple, low-cost “menu del día”. And it worked just fine. Another family I know is tired of trying to fit three generations composed of 12 adults and about 17 grandchildren (including several toddlers and babies) into a flat. So they’ve created a new tradition: pack everyone up and spend Christmas Eve and Christmas Day at a rural getaway that houses the whole tribe and serves a hearty, simple fare. They simply bring their own sweets and gifts and settle in to enjoy one another’s company. There must be a million different ways we can reduce stress during the holidays, mostly by thinking out of the box. The key is to start right now – yes, right now at the beginning of December – to identify hot spots and come up with ideas for keeping things cool, refreshing and fun. So, get busy!