While acknowledging that it can be stressful and it can be challenging for some, Christmas, or indeed any large scale celebration shared by a large body of people, is undoubtedly the time of year when most people are friendlier to each other. It's a coming together of people. There are more shared experiences and shared smiles,
Many who do not attend services for the rest of the year turn out in their droves for carol services, Midnight service on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day itself.
It's a time when we think of good will towards others. Collectors stand in draughty doorways of shops shaking their tins for donations to support their charity of choice.
Our world is lit up with colour and sparkle. Trees go up in houses, shopping malls, high streets, houses, gardens all festooned with colour and lights.
Yes, it’s commercial. Yes, it’s lost the religious meaning for many people. But even so, it still brings with it the 'feeling of Christmas'.
My Personal Attitude to Christmas
My adventure into Mindfulness, the living and the teaching of it has taught me a great deal about myself and about how I interact with the internal and external world. One surprise to me was my attitude to Christmas.
Christmas for me as a child was just magical. Packed off to bed on Christmas Eve, it was re-enforced that if I did NOT go to sleep, Santa would not come with my presents. Now we could argue the rights and wrongs of this but all I remember is the excitement and the absolute thrill of expecting this wonderful person to arrive carrying gifts that were meant just for me. Did I fall asleep?...of course not. Not that is, until after 'Santa' came quietly into my room to fill the small sack that had been left at the bottom of the bed.
Christmas Day itself was full of presents many of which had been home-made. Money was tight but a great deal of effort had been made to create such a lovely time for us all long after Santa was revealed as Dad dressed up in a rather old, tired looking costume.
I always aimed to bring an adult version of those childhood memories into each year. For the last decade of my mother's life (my father having died many years previously), I committed to giving back as much as I could to her of what she gave me.
And then after my mother died, something shifted in me. All I then saw was the commercialism, the endless Christmas adverts and films, the almost desperate intent to have a good time regardless of circumstances. Once I saw it from this angle, through this set of lens, it became for me, a horrible time of the year to endure rather than enjoy.
Through understanding myself more, through accepting things as they are rather than wanting them to be as they were, through being able to change the lens through which I focused, I was able to re-connect with the pleasant as well as the unpleasant aspects of it all and being perfectly OK with both.
For the period of Christmas (or whatever you choose to call it) people smile more, are more engaging, more genorous in spirit and in cash (donations to charities increase during this period). Estranged families might at least think of their absent members and may even reach out to them. Cards are bought and send to old friends with updates on life. It is generally a time for reaching out to others, of kindness and of compassion. It is also a time for partying and having fun.
How much better our world would be if we were able to maintain and expand these feelings that drive such behaviour as an integral part of our every day existence - that sense of connection with others, the smiles and the sheer delight in the joy of life.
But instead of focusing on what we misplace on or around January 2nd, I intend to embrace what there is, welcoming it with a deep sense of gratitude and enjoying it.
To finish, I wanted to share this quote by Bob Hope.
"My idea of Christmas, whether old-fashioned or modern, is very simple: loving others. Come to think of it, why do we have to wait for Christmas to do that!?”
I'm busy working on my blog posts. Watch this space!