The Spirit of Christmas

They don’t call it the silly season for nothing. December is a month I have a love/ hate relationship with and I’m sure I’m not alone.

If things are pretty AOK in your household and work environment it’ll be the usual suspects winding you up like not enough time to finish the projects you need to get done, and getting prepared for the big day and the holis after it. Then there’s the ‘people’ stuff. End of year work parties where you might perhaps take ‘casual Friday’ too far and be a little more candid than is wise, and on the domestic front those tricky relatives you hardly see all year and then try and ‘connect’ with at Christmas time.

If things are not so flash, it’s a different beast again. Lack of finances, family, friends and fun are the four ‘f’s (don’t go there with the ‘f’ thing….) of a less than festive time. The reality of living through the run up to a joyful Christmas promoted as the norm through media everywhere, is far from the truth for many.

The City Mission in Auckland see that truth for sure. It’s the busiest time of year right now. In addition to running their normal social services of emergency assistance; community support for isolated older people; drug and alcohol services, a range of homeless services, distribution services and a medical centre… they also work to ensure everyone’s Christmas is special.

They host New Zealand’s largest Christmas Dinner with 2,000, distribute 8,000 pressies to low-income Auckland families, and provide 4,000 emergency food parcels so families can celebrate Christmas at home. That’s quite some work load above the usual workload.

Christmas, I often feel, is a pendulum swing of a very happy / very sad time. And although it might be easy to think that homogenously groups of people either have a happy or a sad time of things depending on your circumstance, I think you also feel the same ends of that spectrum in the same person too.

For me I am happy to be with family and most grateful I have them in my life. I am sad I no longer have my mother. I look at her hand-written recipe for the Christmas pud and feel a tremendous loss that she is not here to make it and present it with a flourish, brandy sauce and all. I made it for the first-time last year with my niece and we laughed and cried over our effort – she would have too no doubt. That pud aside, I just plain miss her. I miss her laugh and her wisdom and being there to tell things too. I miss sharing family moments when the kids do something she’d be proud of or when things are challenging. I miss having a mum, because they always, always have your back.

I am happy, or rather thankful, that my friend who has just been diagnosed with breast cancer has caught it early. I’m sad it’s been so worrying for her and everyone around her. I am happy my father at 94 is here for another Christmas, but I am sad he has lost his life partner and finds some days harder to get through than they used to be. I am happy my two oldest children are spreading their wings to live overseas for a year (or more). I am sad that I cannot have them physically in my daily orbit any more.

Being grateful / thankful is apparently the key to happiness and I really do think there’s truth in that. So, when you think ‘Happy Christmas’ – perhaps switch it in your mind to what you are grateful for this Christmas and celebrate that. And perhaps do more than just ‘spare a thought’ for others who are dealing with all the (aforementioned) “f” issues too. The City Mission would love your practical help, not just your good wishes.

To you and yours… celebrate what you are thankful for this Christmas – that’s the true spirt of Christmas I think.

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