Every year it comes around without fail, ’tis the season to be jolly? bitter? lonely? angry? I have been all of these over the years.
Whatever you call it and however you celebrate it the Christmas Bank Holiday for many has become a time of year to take stock and spend time with (or in some cases purposely without) your friends and loved ones.
For some it is just one endless round of parties ~ I remember in my youth being with a large group of friends in a town with a number of local pubs ~ where you knew the landlord and could put plenty of good tunes on the jukebox. These get togethers are looked back on fondly ~ but they are of another era. It seems pub culture has changed a lot since then ~ for one you don’t come home red eyed and stinking like an ashtray from the smoke in the pub. Friends have moved on and away ~ now we are lucky if we can gather one or two of us together at a time.
Some folk go to church, gathering for services and enjoying a cup of tea or coffee in the church hall afterwards, having some time to have a natter with the other parishioners. Others gather at local community centres or town halls for various clubs and go out as a group after the last class before Christmas for a meal or drinks. There are many types of get togethers from various clubs and societies but I am mindful that there are also many folk who are too shy or nervous to go and enrol or join them.
There are some great Christmas markets both large and small to wonder around, trying food from stalls and taking in the array of gift ideas. Standing to one side whilst watching Morris Dancers and listening to the sounds of musical organs and stall holders crying their wares. I love to see the hustle and bustle but also find it terrifying when in the midst of crowds and my direction is dictated by the pushing and shoving of the dense population of bodies. I remember once going when the girls were young at the Christmas market in Lincoln ~ it was enjoyable up to the point when I was clinging to my daughters hands to stop us being separated whilst also trying to protect the youngest in the papoose. I can tell you elbows out with a child in each hand and one strapped to the front was not easy!
Our city centre always installs an outside ice rink by the Market Hall which is lovely to see, especially the youngsters, all wrapped up in woollens pushing along a penguin or similar to keep their balance whilst the parents skate wobbly beside them. It’s not too crowded and you can buy mulled wine (yuck) or other beverages, take a seat and just soak it all in. I haven’t yet managed to go this year but am hoping to get there before Christmas to just “be” watch and take it all in.
I truly love to see all the trees and lights decorating cities, towns and villages and when night falls it all looks so magical. The effort the local communities make to create it all is marvellous.
I only decorate one room in our house, that’s all ~ I put up just the one tree and possibly too many fairy lights ~ our lounge looks like a grotto and I love it. When the celebrations are over the tree will be packed away and it’s most likely I will end up rearranging the fairy lights and keeping them up all year round.
What I seriously don’t like about this time of year is the plight of the homeless, surely in this day and age we could provide a roof over the heads of our homeless ~ even if it’s a dormitory style accommodation ~ plus a hot meal a day? I do what I can by giving donations and money to CRISIS but it never feels like enough.
I feel for the old and lonely too ~ imagining their thoughts whilst they watch others bustle around, busy with their children and excitement of the forthcoming celebrations. The lonely come in all ages and social walks of life ~ they watch from the outside, the joy of others magnifying the impact of their situation. I especially feel for those who are mourning the loss of someone close ~ this time of year can feel cruel, raw at times when they would have been planning to be together.
When mum passed, on December 13th 2009, I scowled at anyone enjoying themselves. I cried in the street when I saw mothers and daughters together. I was just so angry at the world ~ how could they be laughing and not see my pain? I imagine how this must feel for so many bereaved, mourning a child, a parent, a partner or friend.
This year is the first year since 2009 that I haven’t cried, I still have the missing piece of my heart which died when mum passed. I can, hand on heart, say I have not scowled at anyone enjoying themselves this year and am consciously turning my mindset around. I am marking every significant date in December relating to mum, her birthday, death and funeral, with something positive. To remember by doing a selfless act, a random act of kindness and making a quiet tribute to mum.
I truly do worry when I see shoppers laden down with gifts and wonder if they can afford it or if they are missing a rent or mortgage payment in order to buy gifts and food. I hate to think of the debt people get into at this time of year and that by the time they get themselves straight it will be time to start spending all over again.
I detest how commercial all these holidays have become ~ the meaning of it all seems to get lost underneath the goods and services people pay for instead.
I know, I hear you say, how can I say that commercialism is taking over the meaning of Christmas when I don’t believe?
In answer to that I say for me Christmas is about people, not things, certainly not gifts. We don’t eat a traditional Christmas dinner as we have a wide range of diets which don’t include meat or dairy. What we do do is have a Secret Santa, this way each member of the family only buys one gift. We plan time together and enjoy the connections we have with each other. It’s a time for family, friends and a reflection of how we have been over the past year ~ to build bridges and make amends or compromises to make peace with each other.
As I said previously ~ I don’t follow a faith but that doesn’t mean I’m not spiritual. I have beliefs, but not those laid down by a church. I do, however, love to see the children’s faces by candle light as they hold their small orange converted into a candle holder, decorated in red ribbon, studded with cloves during a Christingle service. Their faces full of wonder as they sing carols and take turns in adding figurines to the nativity scene throughout the service. I don’t think you have to believe in God to enjoy moments like these, I believe it’s celebrating life ~ all life, in all its forms. I participated as a child in these services and so did my children.
So, whatever you are doing during this Winter/Christmas celebration time please try to take care of yourself. I am painfully aware of how triggering this time of year can be and wherever possible reach out to those who I know are struggling.
Final words ~ Merry Winter/Christmas festivities ~ be safe, be careful and enjoy every moment of it in whichever way you choose to celebrate.
A Politically Correct Christmas ~ Anon
Twas the night before Christmas and Santa’s a wreck…
How to live in a world that’s politically correct?
His workers no longer would answer to “Elves”,
“Vertically Challenged” they were calling themselves.
And labor conditions at the North Pole,
were alleged by the union, to stifle the soul.
Four reindeer had vanished without much propriety,
released to the wilds, by the Humane Society.
And equal employment had made it quite clear,
that Santa had better not use just reindeer.
So Dancer and Donner, Comet and Cupid,
were replaced with 4 pigs, and you know that looked stupid!
The runners had been removed from his beautiful sleigh,
because the ruts were deemed dangerous by the EPA,
And millions of people were calling the Cops,
when they heard sled noises upon their roof tops.
Second-hand smoke from his pipe, had his workers quite frightened,
and his fur trimmed red suit was called “unenlightened”.
To show you the strangeness of today’s ebbs and flows,
Rudolf was suing over unauthorized use of his nose.
He went to Geraldo, in front of the Nation,
demanding millions in over-due workers compensation.
So…half of the reindeer were gone, and his wife
who suddenly said she’d had enough of this life,
joined a self help group, packed and left in a whiz,
demanding from now on that her title was Ms.
And as for gifts…why, he’d never had the notion
that making a choice could cause such commotion.
Nothing of leather, nothing of fur…
Which meant nothing for him or nothing for her.
Nothing to aim, Nothing to shoot,
Nothing that clamored or made lots of noise.
Nothing for just girls and nothing for just boys.
Nothing that claimed to be gender specific,
Nothing that’s warlike or non-pacifistic.
No candy or sweets…they were bad for the tooth.
Nothing that seemed to embellish upon the truth.
And fairy tales…while not yet forbidden,
were like Ken and Barbie, better off hidden,
for they raised the hackles of those psychological,
who claimed the only good gift was one ecological.
No baseball, no football…someone might get hurt,
besides – playing sports exposed kids to dirt.
Dolls were said to be sexist and should be passe.
and Nintendo would rot your entire brain away.
So Santa just stood there, disheveled and perplexed,
he just couldn’t figure out what to do next?
He tried to be merry he tried to be gay,
but you must have to admit he was having a very bad day.
His sack was quite empty, it was flat on the ground,
nothing fully acceptable was anywhere to be found.
Something special was needed, a gift that he might,
give to us all, without angering the left or the right.
A gift that would satisfy – with no indecision,
each group of people in every religion.
Every race, every hue,
everyone, everywhere…even you!
So here is that gift, it’s price beyond worth…
“May you and your loved ones enjoy peace on Earth.”