FC3D5EDB-9704-440E-A96D-6CB7BD018D9C - Derwent

Christmas dinner still the most joyful event of the festive season, survey finds

Age-old Christmas traditions are flourishing despite various campaigns this year to “do your own thing” a survey has found.

But people are questioning the number and cost of presents and many are ditching Christmas cards.

The survey was conducted for mental health charity Mind Over Mountains, who run wellbeing walks in the Derbyshire Peak District. They were keen to find out what was most stressful about Christmas and how people dealt with the pressure.

Turkey dinner, decorating the tree, exchanging gifts – even traditional parlour games – all score highly when people were asked what brings them most joy over the festive season.

There is a definite focus on food as the most important element of a British Christmas, with almost 7 out of 10 people saying sitting down for Christmas dinner is one of the highlights. Having friends and family round for a meal at any other time during the festive season came just behind with 6 out of 10 people (59%).

Four out of 10 adults even said they enjoyed preparing Christmas dinner, compared to 3 out of 10 who got stressed about it.

Playing family games was the top non-food item on the index of happiness (59%), followed by decorating the Christmas tree (53%).

Fewer presents and cards

When asked what they would do to ease the seasonal burden, people said they would be giving fewer presents and stop sending Christmas cards.

We want to limit the money we spend on presents and to instead concentrate on spending quality time with loved ones,” said one typical response. “We would give up buying presents for adults in the family and only buy for children,” said another.

When the positives and negatives of Christmas traditions were added together, the 3 most hated were shopping for presents (minus 30%), sending Christmas cards (-18%) and spending money (-14%).

Fresh air and exercise

“We know that Christmas can be a stressful time of the year for many people, so it's refreshing that very nearly everyone in the survey could list at least one tradition or event that brought them joy,” says Ian Sansbury, chief executive of the Mind Over Mountains charity that commissioned the research.

“What's even more important is that people have a coping mechanism to deal with the pressures of the festive season.”

Over the Christmas period most people chose fresh air and exercise as a way of unwinding. More than 70% opted for a walk in the park or countryside, although people also added they would stay home and avoid people at other times.

Mind Over Mountains provides walks and retreats where participants can chat to professional counsellors at the same time as exercising in beautiful countryside.

“One in four adults are now affected by mental health issues, so our charity is helping by giving people professional help without the pressure and anxieties of a formal ‘appointment’ or meeting”, adds Mind Over Mountains founder Alex Staniforth.

“Our events give you the opportunity to explore beautiful parts of the UK while accompanied by skilled counsellors and coaches who walk, talk and, most importantly, listen.”

Wellbeing walks take place throughout the year across England and Wales, there is also a post New Year weekend retreat on Dartmoor on 26-28 January. For more information visit www.mindovermountains.org.uk