What does Christmas mean to you?
Posted on 1st December 2020 at 09:38
Christmas can be an extremely emotive time of year. Christmas decorations appear in the shops in October and the pressure of Christmas shopping starts even before we have the Halloween celebrations are out of the way. As I started writing this article I considered how I felt about this, how do I feel about Christmas ? The answer to this is that this changes all the time, but why?
I began to reflect upon Christmases that had passed by so far.
As a child I lived on the farm with my parents, my sisters and my granny. My Dad cut down a tree from the forest land around us and we brought it into the home. Writing this now those memories of excitement flood into my mind and I can smell the fresh pine scent that filled the room. The smell of the woodburner stove joins in and then my attention is drawn to memories of my parents, my Mum cooking in the kitchen, my Dad , his boots on the stone floor, snow turning into puddles of water around them on the floor, his heavy winter coat on the back of the chair. Memories of Christmas days probably all roll into one. I cant really remember a full day from start to finish but I see the presents under the tree, the flurry of paper as we all unwrapped to see what was inside, the times spent later in the day playing on the floor and watching the Christmas film on TV. The food, oh my goodness my Mum was an incredible cook and Christmas dinner seemed to go on for hours with the cheese and the puddings all there late into the evening for us all to carry on eating. It all sounds quite idyllic and Christmas most definitely meant snow where we lived, so it could quite easily be the scene of a classic Christmas movie.
In reality there was probably a fair share of squabbling between us girls, my Mum was probably stressed to bits cooking the dinner for us all as we got under her feet. My Dad was actually a bit of a grump at Christmas. I have clear memories of arguments between my parents about spending on gifts, and he would be busy still outside on the farm which meant he was never really part of the time spent together playing games and the like.
This feeling of warmth and fondness for the past is filled with memories of my parents and family time that I no longer have and for many years this actually brought me great pain at Christmas. Sadness for what is lost and I feel that this is often overlooked at Christmas. The films, the shops , the books, the posts on facebook even, all tell us that we should be feeling happy, enjoying a lot of expensive gifts under the perfectly decorated Christmas tree in a set of coordinated pyjamas with a full face of make up and our hair done, while we settle our perfectly formed bums around a large table full of food from the Marks and Spencer food hall.
Think back to last Christmas right now. Did that happen ? Personally I was awoken in the early hours of the morning by my youngest child and when I stumbled to the bathroom before I hit the kitchen for a strong cup of coffee, I saw my hair was most definitely not done, I was sporting a nice pair of dark circles around my eyes, my unfestive pyjama top didn’t match my old pyjama bottoms, you know the ones that are still comfy but have a hole in them, and as the day of present opening, cooking, family calls and toy construction played out, I’m pretty sure I didn’t get further than a face wipe with my beauty routine that day. There is always a time in the day, no matter how many years have passed, that my mind wanders to those lost, and I do still feel some sadness about that.
I used to work very hard at pushing sad and uncomfortable feelings away. They were uncomfortable, I didn’t want to entertain them ! What I have learned in life and as a therapist is that this only works for a certain amount of time before the mind, and the body gets too full and overwhelmed.
Taking sadness as an example, on Christmas day, for things lost. People, relationships, comforts perhaps, all even more prevalent this year. This feeling can be felt right to the pit of your stomach. It can churn and twist and make you want to cry, to shout, to hide away. But on Christmas we are told we have to be happy at all times so what is this sadness doing here? Go away we tell it and we take a large mouthful of wine or an extra mince pie and we try to pretend it isn’t there. But lost things are sad, so the sadness keeps on shouting at us, I’m here !! This is sad, will you please look at me ?
I’m sad, I need a bit of attention and a bit of love and support otherwise I’m just going to get bigger and bigger until you cant help but see me.
Thoughts and feelings pass through us all day. Look at the sadness, say to it I feel you and I know why you are here. I am going to acknowledge you are here and let you be for a little while but then I am going to let you pass and move my attention to something else, and the best place to draw your attention to is the present moment. Its tough, its really tough some times but look hard and there is always something right there in the present moment that can find gratitude for.
Christmas for me this year is different yet again. This year we have a new baby in the family, my beautiful grandson, but lockdown means I wont be with as many family members as usual. Two years ago I never imagined we would have a new baby in our lives and this time last year the word covid was not something familiar to my ears.
The world, our environment, and subsequently our Christmases are ever changing.
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