How can you make the best of December and avoid the common mistakes that turn January into a nightmare?
The Christmas trees are on display at different shops, Christmas carols are being played and more and more advertisements are beginning with “this festive season …”
In the meantime, some are already planning holiday travel while the days of many goats and chicken are numbered.
Another season of festivities is here with us, but how can you make the best of December and avoid the common mistakes that turn January into a nightmare?
The Sunday Nation spoke with a range of individuals who shared these tips:
1. Stay afloat financially to avoid January blues
Times are hard and every shilling counts. As cliché as it may sound, sticking to a budget that governs one’s holiday expenditure should not be overlooked according to Mr Chris Thuku of Securities Africa.
“After budgeting, there are idle funds that may be left in your account, which you may be tempted to spend irrationally just for the sake of it being there. Don’t. Put the money in a money-market fund or buy treasury bills,” he says.
2. Enjoy end-of-year office parties
They may seem routine, but office parties, that will begin in the next couple of weeks, can be a minefield. Nation Media Group’s senior human resource manager Jane Muiruri says controlling how much alcohol one drinks tops the list of things a person can do to avoid shameful scenes at staff parties.
“It is indecent and disrespectful to get sloppy drunk in front of superiors and workmates. Go for half the amount that would normally make you tipsy. Dress decently, more like the normal ‘dress-down Fridays’ at the office,” she says.
3. Ensure children maintain academic edge
For Ms Carolyne Njoki, a mother of three and primary schoolteacher, reading habits should be nurtured even as festivities take root.
“As a parent and a teacher, I advise my children to keep a reading habit throughout the festive season by reading a novel or a storybook at least a chapter a day. It is also my habit to have each one of them write a composition or an essay of how they spent their festive season and everything they learnt in that period. I then go through all and grade them accordingly, sometimes even awarding the best performer,” she says.
4. Eat healthy and maintain fitness
London-based yoga teacher Celest Pereira, recently spoke to Elle magazine on how to emerge from the festive season with a body you are proud of.
“Drink lots of water on a night out. Don’t be afraid when your friends are offering to buy you drinks to ask for a sparkling water with some lemon,” she said.
5. Handle visiting relatives
Nairobi resident Sally Nyawira, a mother of two, who loves to host and entertain guests, says the rule in hosting visitors is to have enough for them.
“Visitors are a blessing, and a commonly occurring blessing during the festive season, if I may say. It is important to be prepared. Buy non-perishable foods in bulk beforehand. It is a much cheaper option because whatever remains can still be cooked and used in the coming year, reducing your January budget by a wholesome,” she says.
6. Drink responsibly
The festive season comes with a tonne of indulgences, especially food and alcohol. The East African Breweries Limited (EABL) advises consumers to be aware of their drinking limit, pointing out that the average person processes about one unit (120ml) of alcohol per hour. Nothing can speed this up.
Other ways of controlling drinking are pacing oneself: Do not forget to pace yourself (“it is not a competition,” says an EABL advisory) to allow the body to process the drink, consuming alcohol within your limits.
This will allow a situation where drinking is enjoyed and there is social interaction — instead of the drama that comes with too much alcohol.
7. Keep criminals at bay
Horrifying stories have been told of people who came back from celebrating the festive season only to find their homes swept clean. The thought of starting from scratch, especially after overspending during the festivities, is simply traumatising.
For those who seek to be adventurous and travel to new places for Christmas, the fear of insecurity lurks in the subconscious, stealing precious peace of mind.
Thanks to advances in technology, burglar-proofing houses today has become more efficient with an increase in sophisticated alarm systems that can be managed conveniently on your phone or laptop.
Getting such a system installed will ensure you kick back and enjoy catching up with family and friends with the option of occasionally checking your phone or other smart devices to see how things are looking back at home.
Some of the common tips from Kenya police on staying safe are being always aware of one’s surroundings to avoid being vulnerable to robbers, pickpockets and petty thieves.
8. Manage temptations of the flesh
The social meaning of Christmas — the partying, reunions and suchlike indulgences — often override the essence of Christmas was proposed by the church. Sometimes, we get carried away by the hype of it all leaving us vulnerable to irresponsible sexual behaviour.
“Unfortunately, negative peer pressure is often at its peak during the festivities. We have cousins coming together in family parties, there are Christmas parties at the office and other organisations. Basically, social interactions are heightened during the Christmas period. With the alcohol flowing freely, it is easy for people to drop their guard a little. Now for young people, this loosening up often escalates to recklessness real fast,” says Mr Alex Kinyanjui, a sexual health counsellor at LVCT Health.
He adds that it is important for people to remember that the festivities last for a short season but the consequences of the choices we make will be stuck with us for life.
9. Holiday trips: the dos and dont’s
According to Grace Wangui, the tours manager at Kenya Turacos Safaris, early booking of holiday destinations is the best way one can deal with last-minute hassles and surges in pricing.
“Don’t be a last-minute booker, take time to plan and pay your tours in advance, this will ease your pressure to settle major bills and you can also be sure of services availability,” she says.
She also discourages holidaymakers from carrying large amounts of money with them while travelling, and urges them not to carry anything that may make them conspicuous.
10. Road safety
In the first two weeks of December 2017, more than 150 people died on Kenyan roads in what three State agencies in charge of the docket said was mostly due to human error.
As the crackdown aimed at enforcing the rules continues, the number is expected to go down, but it is a wait-and-see.
It is therefore extremely important for all road users have been advised to play their rightful role in enhancing road safety by adhering to traffic rules and speak out against reckless road use.