Hello Dear Friends
I’ve just returned from grocery shopping, it’s a beautiful summer day and I wanted to get out and back home quickly. Many of the children from private schools are on the loose and public schools will finish next week and then the shops will be even more chaotic, yet filled with laughter and silly antics the kids get up to.
It’s summer and they are free for about 6 weeks to enjoy themselves – I’ll go out early to shop so I can enjoy a quieter experience while they sleep in...The beginning of summer is filled with anticipation, swimming, skateboarding, bike riding and posing as if in the fashion mags.
The beginning of summer is also Christmas time and I love Christmas, probably because it evokes happy memories for me of my family, my mother in particular, my children growing up, and now my grandchildren and granddogs. I love the anticipation of it all.
In my mother’s day (born 1924), Christmas was a gentle affair, not as much bother and expectation as we seem to have today: Church, a lunch and maybe a gift for her; a much leaner time as they’d just experienced tough times through war and a depression.
The Christmas of my childhood was of hot food proudly prepared by mum, and the kitchen turned into a lovely dining space with lunch for many (and then adults going to sleep on the couch). I remember one year our Pa gave us coins to go to the shops and we all happily ran off to spend, then realising we’d been tricked to give the adults sleep time; the shops were closed, of course! We spent the rest of the day a bit bored, as it was too hot to go outside and adults could be grumpy, Christmas afternoon back in the day
The down side to the day was alcohol, and this could turn happy to disaster quickly some years but that’s not the memory I wish to share today.
It always seemed to be a hot day back then, I don’t remember any rain, but I do remember a Christmas Eve electrical storm that I have not seen the likes of since. The lightening had a blue tinge and it lit up the roads like daylight, and my Nanna screamed with each thunder she was so scared.
It can be hit and miss with weather now; cold cloudy days often greet us on the 25th; climate change perhaps?
What got my attention this morning was the silliness of the retailers with Ho Ho Ho, Deck The Halls, Merry Christmas sales splashed across windows. Enticing me to buy clothes, stationary, food, newspapers, coffee
It just struck me, like that Christmas Eve lightening of so long ago, the stage of life lit up so clearly. It used to be fun to go out and buy gifts for my darlings, it was fun to sit and watch the light and joy on the children’s faces while I had a coffee, and mused about wrapping the gifts for placement under the tree. Mum and I would eat little Christmas treats and sit and laugh together.
But today, what I saw was over the top commercialism and no one seemed happy. The people walk as if in a dream and the children cry and want and it evokes a little sadness in me for the days gone by. The shops are dressed in pretend snow while we swelter, and people’s heart lights seemed to be dim.
Don’t get me wrong I do love a bit of retail, I love a coffee and a chat, I love the carols if they are not too loud, but I don’t like manufactured joy and I wonder if that’s why the heart lights are not bright anymore (to me).
Somewhere between my mum’s childhood, my own and where I am today, Christmas spirit has been corrupted. There was a place for the faithful in Christmas and a place for the secular in the family sharing holiday time, but Christmas seems to be all about the retail sector at this point in time. Wonder where Christmas is to you and if you feel a little like me?
It’s a big time for the churches; many will go for their once a year visit, drop a bit of coin in the tray and receive a blessing, walking away feeling all the richer for it.
And the parishes will be looking after many of the poor and lonely and sad who will come to seek out a bit of food, a shoulder to cry on and a blessing and maybe they too will walk away feeling a wee bit comforted.
It’s a special time for many families to get together and spend the day, catching up with extended family that they may not have had opportunity to experience throughout the year. They’ll eat too much, exchange gifts and feel the joy as it passes from one hand to the other, a moment of great sharing and beauty. I still love this Christmas spirit.
For some, they don’t want gifts, saying/feel it is wanton commercialism and instead just want the warmth, love, and connectedness to the family they love. Christmas can be enjoyed with material gifts equally as much as with sacred gifts of love, compassion and joy.
For others though, family can be troublesome, dangerous and Christmas for them can/is a time of fear, sadness (and for many, poverty). The pressure to be pleasant, joyful, buy presents when little spare cash is available, if at all, must be horrendous. Alcohol just like back in my childhood days can wreak further havoc here too.
My family of origin was poor, and yet I really had no concept of this – my mum made fabulous dresses for my sister and I, with maybe a doll or game was wrapped with her special love (she had an abundance of it for us); I loved Christmas morning!
As I walked through town today, all of these thoughts came to mind. Whether you are of the faithful kind and go to church to celebrate the birth of Jesus, or of the secular kind who celebrates the spirit of Christmas in your own special way, I hope everyone of us can escape the need to buy buy buy.
Retailers have coopted Christmas big time, and it might suit us to buy, but I hope we can all stop and reflect upon our choices – not get caught up by their manufactured cheer to help their bottom line. Be kind to yourself; buy within a budget and with coin (rather than or instead of notes or card)
We don’t really need to buy gifts, we just need each other and to share freely the one gift that is always ours to give, love. I do love to receive a gift or two, I am still a child that way.
The love you need might be found in the church Christmas service with friends or loved ones by your side.
It might be all wrapped up in a gift bought and offered with joy, the love might be a hug and a kiss on both cheeks, or/and a meal shared, there is no measure and all is thoughtful and compassionate.
The spirit of Christmas is a reminder to love, to enjoy and aren’t we lucky here in Australia? It is also the joyful beginning of summer holidays, so get out there and have some fun. If you are in the colder climates, enjoy the warmth of the winter coats and the joy of eggnog by the fire just like in the Christmas movies and on cards! Anytime of year is the time of year to love and enjoy the spirit of Christmas.
Enjoy yourself no matter what you do, what you buy, where you are and spread the love and kindness from your heart today tomorrow and always.
Lots of Love to You
If you are experiencing troubles and would like to talk things through with me, go here
Over Christmas there will be helplines available, here are three major Australian helpers
Beyond Blue 1300 22 4636
Lifeline 13 11 14
Kids Helpline 1800 55 1800
Local Council and church offices will have a list of venues for Christmas lunches, and crisis food and housing