As joyous as the festive season is, it is also a time people can overstretch themselves and strive for perfection in all they do – and a time when people can feel hugely isolated and alone. But how can you avoid this and why do we put ourselves through it?
I watch people getting really stressed this time of year, rushing around with seemingly too much to do and too little time to do it. They knowingly plunge into debt, spend up to the limit on their credit cards, stand eight trolleys deep in the supermarket queue, buy expensive decorations that match, redecorate the kitchen or lounge and even fight with other shoppers, all in an attempt to fabricate the perfect Christmas. It seems to me, however, that they may just have lost sight of the true meaning of Christmas.
The real problem with Christmas, is that is has been saturated by idealised advertising, conditioning people into false fantasies, gluttony, materialism and the internalised social pressure of keeping up with appearances. Then there are all the internal feelings of guilt, obligation and expectation playing out in the mind, making the inner child come out, all the things that take people far away from peace and true happiness.
The story of Christmas is ‘deliciously rich in symbolism’, it’s a reminder for all of us about what unconditional love and compassion really are. The children and animals have been showing us for years, when they play more with the wrapping paper and box, than the present itself. We can see that magical excitement is about anticipation, the thought, the effort, the gift of love – all non-material things.
For many, especially those who live alone, in residential homes for children or the elderly or the homeless, Christmas is the most emotionally difficult time of the year to get through. Not least because it is a reminder that they have not been included, invited, thought about or welcomed in to share the feast and festivities. But it really doesn’t take that much to turn it all around.
People who think Christmas Cards are a waste of money, do not live alone. The value in being thought about often lasts from the moment the card is received until New Year, long after the ripped open Christmas gifts do.
When it comes to a gift, what has more worth, a present from someone who has £50,000 and buys you a gift for £100 or someone who has £5 and buys you a gift for £5?
Being on your own at Christmas is different to being alone. For example, people might be on their own because their partners have to work, but those who live and spend Christmas Day alone, do so because their family relationship attachments have been severely damaged or broken by necessity or life circumstances. For anyone finding themselves on their own, I’ve written a ‘Survival Guide for those who are Alone at Christmas’, pointing the way to finding your own Christmas magic.
Christmas is a reminder of how we might live all the days of our lives. It’s not about presents, it’s about presence. It’s not just a day and Santa Claus is not a person, but an experience and an opportunity to connect with the spirit of universal life. In Christian language, the spirit of the Christ Mass, the Father of the Saint.
Grace means thanks. In a changing world, thanks for the small acts of kindness shown us by others, thanks for the beds that we sleep in, the air that we breathe, that we got through this year, that we have an opportunity to create dreams, set goals, make the next one better. That we each have within us the magical power to love and to show it by including others, spending time talking and letting them know exactly why we appreciate them. If everyone did that, Christmas may not only be perfect, it could just be immaculate.
Wishing you a warm cosy hearth,