A Conundrum called Christmas

Every year it sneaks up on me and every year I feel I need to be doing something like running round like a headless chicken. Either you love it or hate it. Yes, Christmas. It’s not that I hate Christmas. I just hate what it has become in our current society…and as it happens I don’t like shopping either. I should have been a man! I would prefer to walk round Lough Swilly any day because for me Christmas and every other time of the year is about finding the peace in simple things.

The Christmas story is a simple story. I know many theologians would pour cold water on most of the so-called facts of the Christmas story. It doesn’t stop it being a beautiful story though, or stop me from believing in it even though I know that the events almost certainly did not happen in the way they are told. Sometimes Christmas, despite all the planning, doesn’t happen the way we would like to tell it either.

We all know planning for Christmas is potentially explosive. Getting together with family members can lead to many a blazing row on Christmas Day, never mind the stress and anxiety that go with the preparations. The fiscal belt-tightening in the latest Christmas Budget hasn’t helped either. It has left Santa not only struggling for breath but struggling to vocalize a ‘ho ho ho’ that will cheer up jobless families who are also struggling to keep their children warm and fed, while creating that perfect little Christmas we are all supposed to have. Or are we?

I grew up in a home with few expectations. Up until I was at least seven, candle light, for most of it, was essential. I don’t remember ever having a Christmas day row in my home. But I think I know why. It’s all about expectations. Apart from Santa, I grew up in a home whereby the only expectation was heading off into the night to a warm chapel…standing room only… for midnight mass. I swear the stars always twinkled brighter than ever that night and my eyes stood as big as saucers as I knelt at the crib with my penny candle totally in awe.

Holding those magical moments in my heart releases me from feeling I need to succumb to buying every “essential” item, or by eating or drinking certain foods, or by running to every event or Christmas party. I just can’t make Christmas that way. In fact, you cannot make Christmas at all. Because Christmas exists beyond all the external manifestations we think ARE Christmas.

Now when the winter has begun to bite, when the streets light up with twinkling, shimmering lights and the shop windows are so creatively displayed I appreciate all those who throw themselves into the spirit of Christmas. Humankind needs a midwinter festival to get them through the darkest of days, and whether this is Saturnalia, Yule, the Natalis Invicta , Christmas or whatever, it’s something of a psychological necessity. We need the hope and the light of gathering together against the dark and the cold.

Christmas is about love. Not sparkling glass ornaments from Mark ‘n Sparks or gifts or Yule log or movies or play stations or anything that you can hold in your hand or look at. It’s intangible and elusive. Christmas, like every other time of the year is about a home full of love…and love is a verb…so make sure you offer to do the dishes! Until next time, Aileen.

© Aileen McGee

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