Christmas thoughts

It’s a funny thing about Christmas – funny in that so many will conform to the bright lights, the tinsel, the tree.  Some don’t for many and varied reasons – personally I usually leave all my cards to the last possible moment, meaning many of my friends and family abroad will doubtless receive a new year celebratory card with Happy Christmas bestowed.

It's a time for family, we are told; a time for advent, carols and church services if you so desire; the constant refrain of the same hymns and carols year in year out.  For some the novelty (?) remains; for young children the excitement of it all, often couched in gifts and material objects they may have coveted for the past few months; the consumerism, the promises of “if they’ve been good / naughty”.  The lack of those family members and friends who have left this world, those tinges of sadness or perhaps even more complex feelings of difficult relationships, a world we aspired to but failed to “achieve”.

I for one am without my mother now; Christmas 2016 was a fraught time of visits resulting in her passing the following January; 2017 being a year of losses.  Now this year I am in another anticipatory grief sense as my centenarian father finds himself in hospital, he seems to have had a “frequent visitor” pass since Christmas 2021 when he sadly fell and broke three ribs.  And without the assurance of exactly why he is in there nor when he may come out there’s an element of compartmentalisation of it all so that I can somehow continue on my own trajectory of “getting through” Christmas – which somehow sounds wrong.

Growing up we had everything we needed, I was lucky – and compared to many others had a loving and caring family although emotional things were not discussed and frequently brushed under the carpet.  A nice, normal, middle class loving family.  Yes of course we care; but behind closed doors there were underlying tensions never truly aired, expectations, avoidance.  I never really knew the word “anxiety” till I worked extensively with anxious clients, and anxiety appears to co exist with a whole host of other emotions and tensions.  In the last few years I have seen people presenting with anxiety and recognise that I too, experienced considerable anxiety whilst in my adolescence, experiencing it as a permanent knot in my stomach, as if I was permanently on high alert both at home and the school environment; I tuned out the world.  It was easier that way.

So Christmas for me is a time to indulge, a time to dress up, wear sparkly things, attend a few parties, sing carols and drink mulled wine.  But there’s the expectation upon me to get cards written up and posted, to write a Christmas letter to all and sundry, risking the fact that it may just end up in recycling.

But then, and only then, will I open myself up to the real spirit of Christmas.  I wonder about others' experiences and expectations of Christmas?

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