A big part of the holidays is about being joyful. Food, drink, decorations and presents are all designed to make children and grownups squeal with delight. We want those that we care about to be happy, and many of us will spend more money and time than we should trying to make that so.
Somewhere along the way, life offers up the lesson that there is no way to make someone else happy. You can make them more comfortable, or maybe make them smile for a minute. But no amount of gifts or favorite foods can make a sick child well, a grieving parent joyful, or a worried spouse content. You cannot cure the ennui in another soul, no matter how much you want to do so.
You also cannot make people behave thoughtfully. You simply can’t force them to get along, much less to like each other, if they don’t want to, no matter what day of the year it is. At best you can try to model patience and tolerance, and probably manage to keep from making an inflamed situation even worse. At worst, you get to learn the hard way that chastising family or guests for acting like children is a notoriously unsuccessful way to bring on the holiday cheer.
What can you do? I like the twin holiday concepts of comfort and joy. Offer comfort widely, liberally, and with lots of love. It won’t make everybody happy, of course. But it will make everybody more comfortable, and that may well lead to more joy. Just do what you can.
As to joy, let yourself feel it. You don’t do a single other soul any sort of favor by suffering along with them. Misery really does not like company. Rather, we are all a little contagious. If you are filled with happiness, you encourage others to allow themselves to find cheer within their own hearts. Embracing the joy inside yourself is the best gift you can give, both to yourself and to others.