My husband and I sometimes have discussions about ‘Christmas-time’. We both have our opinions as to when it is. Jim is English and more of a traditionalist. For him, Christmas time begins on the 25th of December and last twelve days. For me, partly because of my American upbringing, Christmas begins the day after Thanksgiving and ends on Christmas day – two days longer than the advent season. He celebrates Christmas when it happens, while I celebrate it as something to look forward to. He enjoys meeting up with family and having the big Christmas feast(s). I enjoy the preparations and evoking the ambiance of Christmas. I love having my tree up, lighting my Christmas-y candles, going shopping and seeing the Christmas decorations and watching Christmas movies.
Of course, there is no right way or wrong way to celebrate Christmas. I know of many different ways people celebrate Christmas. I also know that for some, Christmas is a very difficult time of year. Some choose not to celebrate it at all. Strange as it may seem, I totally get it. The problem is, we put way too much importance on the ‘how’ of Christmas. I mean Christmas has to be wonderful right? We have to make sure everyone is happy. So we negotiate with our spouses as to who we visit and when and who visits us. We try desperately hard to get the right gifts for people otherwise misunderstandings happen. (You thought I was a size 12?!) We bake till our backs break only to find out that Bree won’t eat cookies with oats in it, Jaz won’t eat anything with red food colouring (on the fact that she is a veggie) and Sara’s daughter has a nut allergy. Not to mention all the dieters out there who won’t eat anything at all!
Then there are those who have Christmas memories where things went wrong. A death. A break-up. A vicious argument. Which isn’t fair because like I said, we believe in the importance that Christmas must be wonderful.
We also believe that Christmas is about getting together with family. However, many will be spending Christmas alone. Some will not be doing this by choice. There is a sad growing crisis in the UK of elderly people being abandoned by their family. These people have grown-up children and grand-children who have cut them off. Every Christmas, they sit alone at home; no visit, no phone call, not even a card. As hard as it is to be abandoned, the feeling is compounded at Christmas. They have many memories of Christmases past when they use to spend it with their family. Christmas use to be wonderful. Now they are alone.
Also, that first Christmas after a divorce…dismal! There is a large family get together and everyone is either fussing over you because they feel sorry for you or they are avoiding talking about your ex altogether. Then there is Auntie Jo, who perhaps is going a bit senile in her old age. She keeps asking you where the no-good bum is. Only she says, ‘Where is that lovely husband of yours?’
Christmas after divorce can be harder still if there are children involved. The anger and resentment may still be there. Even if you and your ex have been able to work out Christmas arrangements with the kids amicably, the kids have voices of their own. They may not want to spend it with you and visit Auntie Jo. On the other hand, they may not be putting up a fuss at all, but you have placed all this pressure on yourself to buy them the best gifts and make it the best Christmas ever for them. Why? Because Christmas must be wonderful.
Many people take on a second job over Christmas to afford the gifts they must buy. Many are in jobs which become more stressful around Christmas. If you work for a delivery company or are in a retail related job then that usually means lots of late nights, over-time hours and angry customers. After all, they are paying your wages by buying those special gifts which need to arrive in time otherwise Christmas won’t be wonderful.
Why do we do it? Why do we put all this hard work and pressure on ourselves to make Christmas perfect? Why are the gifts, the food and the festivities so important to get right? Why does it have to be so wonderful?
Every year I find myself speculating on what I will and won’t do during the leading up to Christmas. The truth is, I do want it to be wonderful for everyone. I also want as little stress as possible.
How each of us celebrates Christmas is up to us. However, if you have some concerns as to how Christmas will be this year. If you are too busy and worried about stress or sinking into depression, then it is time to start planning. What will bring you peace this Christmas? I’m not suggesting that you think only of yourself. I am however, giving us all permission to give a bit of love to ourselves as well.
Christmas isn’t about an image. It isn’t about outward perfection. Christmas is the celebration of a mysterious, mystical and wonderful event. As I ponder on that event, the imagery that it evokes isn’t garland, platefuls of food or presents wrapped in metallic paper. There is no imagery but a starlit night which is sensed more than seen.
It is a feeling of profound silence. A silence which grows deep within and warms the heart. A silence which is reflective of that mysterious, mystical moment in history….the birth of Christ. That very first Christmas was wonderful. I suppose every Christmas must be wonderful if we but allow it to reflect that first.