Christmas can be such a contradictory season – a time for hope, joy and happiness, and at the same time, it's a festival that falls at the darkest time of year and can bring stress and anxiety to many. Yet understandably, we look to it every year to break up the monotony of the dark days of winter. Lights, carols and decorations all help to drive away the cold!
As I write this I am looking out at a very ‘bleak midwinter’ type day which is nothing but cold, rainy and grey. The trees are bare and unmoving, and what little light we do have has shown no sign of brightening at any point. Christmas cards however, tend to paint a different picture of December, with Victorian streets covered in snow, or robins on crisp, sunny, winter mornings – days of apricity no less – and because these pictures appeal, this is how we remember Christmas, despite endless years of grey, damp Christmas Days suggesting otherwise. We stick with the message of hope, and why shouldn't we?
As well as the fundamental Christian message behind Christmas, and the importance of meeting up with family and friends, we like Christmas because it breaks up the monotony. Imagine going through from December to January without anything to look forward to, without the holiday-feeling when you’re not expected to be at work, and without everyone else also taking the time off. This is a time when the majority of us are officially expected to not come in to work. The final weeks beforehand can be among the busiest, but it’s worth it for the break of even just a few days. At this time of year, I often remember the well-known phrase, ‘a change is as good as a rest’, because that is what Christmas is. It often isn’t an actual rest at all and can involve huge amounts of cooking, hosting or travelling, and yet we continue to celebrate it the way we do because of what it stands for, and because those traditions are so important to all of us.
It’s all too easy nowadays to let either work or social media take over our minds at all hours of the day, but I’d like to think that on Christmas Day, most people manage to switch off completely and enjoy spending the time doing things that wouldn’t normally take place on an average weekend – going for family walks, watching Christmas films together, or playing games instead of everyone retiring to stare at their phones.
We crave the sociable atmosphere, and however much the Scrooges amongst us complain, they’d probably miss it all if it didn’t happen.
I think we should try and take the way we celebrate Christmas as a guide for the rest of the year. It’s so easy to continue life week in, week out, without doing anything different, or making a real effort to keep in touch with those people we don’t often see, but I think it’s definitely worth a try!
And just because it’s Christmas, here is a link to some sausage dogs in Hyde Park, all wearing Christmas outfits.