What is Christmas all about?
Some say Christmas is all about religion, but that is not for me.
Some say gratitude, it’s hard to feel grateful when you are hurting.
Is it about Unity? It’s hard to feel connected when you feel alone.
Or highlights from the previous year? I lost my job three times, does that count?
Is Christmas about the joy of giving? Giving time, giving thoughts, giving a helping hand, giving gifts, giving donations, giving love?
I’ve seen some people who think that Christmas is all about what you might get for yourself and greedily snatching for the next present.
Some people hate Christmas and this time of year because of its commercial nature and focus on “buying” things, I get that, but I am no Christmas Grinch.
When I was very young, our family didn’t have a lot of money. We had survived through domestic violence, mental illness, separation and divorce, all by the time I had turned five years old.
We were not a broken family, we were a resilient family.
When I look back, Christmas was one of my favourite times of the year. Starting with summer school holidays and beach days in the sun, my mother spread the excitement and magic of Santa Claus in the weeks leading up to Christmas day by decorating the house complete with scenes of reindeers, and sleighs filled with presents, and the house filled with sounds of old school Christmas songs. Red and green cordial and chocolate covered nuts were placed on the Christmas themed table- cloth. The twinkling lights on the Christmas tree reflecting on the television screen while a Christmas movie played, and the growing pile of Christmas presents under the tree brought such a sweet feeling of happiness for me every year.
I swear I could hear those Christmas sleigh bells as clear as day, in the night sky, on Christmas Eve.
We had a very large extended family and Christmas day gatherings might involve one hundred family members, with tables overflowing with lovingly prepared food. The dishes had taken days to prepare and my mouth would water at the sight of them, especially the roast pork crackle. Special dishes that we would never really have throughout the year were served in abundance. My sister especially loved my Grandmother’s trifle pudding spiked with Brandy. The smorgasboard was laid out and we all took turns helping ourselves, most of us went for seconds and thirds, it was so delicious!
All of my grandparents were alive in those days and they managed to bring most of the family together to celebrate on that day, whether they liked each other or not. This was no easy task, with my mother having ten brothers and sisters and all of my cousins as well, it was a huge event. It was such a festive occasion, the biggest party of the year for our family, complete with party hats, music and bon bons. Besides funerals, and an occasional family reunion, this was the only day of the year that most of us would see each other.
I remember being ecstatic about getting a rag doll from my Grandmother, a bike from my Father and a gold watch from my Uncle and Aunt and watching my little sister’s face light up as she excitedly unwrapped her presents on Christmas morning. It’s amazing though, after forty years, most of the time you can’t remember who gave you what, you only really remember how you felt, and who was kind to you.
As I got older, the magic of Santa was lost. Christmas became more about time to spend with family, and after finishing school and going off to university, it became even more important to me to maintain those connections.
When my son was born, many years later, the magic of Santa and Christmas returned as my son got old enough to understand the excitement of it all. I continued some of the traditions from my family and added some of my own. I always wanted my mother to be there to re-experience the magic of Christmas again, through my son.
Christmas used to represent all these things for me.
I didn’t want to let go of them.
These days, our family live far apart and for many reasons sometimes decide not to make the long trip to spend Christmas day together. My son is getting older now and will finish primary school this Christmas and with this, the magic and excitement of Santa leaves again.
We should have our daughter, Willow, with us this Christmas, who would have been two this year and we probably would have been re-experiencing all the magic again through her, but this is not to be. Christmas last year and the year before was very hard for me. It is not the same now, nor will it ever be the same. Especially when you wish people were with you but they are not.
We don’t know when we are going to run out of time to tell our family and friends that we are thankful for them being in our lives. For the memories they helped create and the kindness they have shown over the years. We often hold onto the bad memories and sometimes we find it hard to forgive.
So what is Christmas all about? Forgiveness? Hope? Gratitude? Giving? Remembering? Unity? Family?
I wonder if it’s a little bit of all of these things and maybe as you change, and as your family changes, the meaning of Christmas changes with you?
This year I’m going to be letting go of my wish for things to be as they used to be and to try to focus more on how they are. This year our family will be doing something completely different for Christmas, but that is a different story to tell.
This Christmas I’m hopeful for new beginnings and new traditions but I am also going back to my roots, who I really am, and who I want to be.
This year I will be remembering all the good things people have done for me and all the great memories they helped me to create.
I will be connected to you all and feeling grateful for that.
What do you think Christmas is all about?