What is Christmas to you?
Life can be a bit of a whirl... everything temporary, nothing permanent, a constant work in progress, so I find it is important to reflect on important, notable and specific events in your life now and again.
To what end?
Well, when that reflection is easy, no pressure, warm and comfortable it helps all the jolts, highs, lows to settle a little more comfortably, holistically and sustainably. All of which enables your self-renewal, immune and recovery systems and your more natural, authentic you to emerge refreshed, renewed and recharged.
So, what is Christmas to me?
Now that I am of the age to have experienced the highest highs, lowest lows and quite a few points in between... here are my thoughts... just now.
Most recently I have weaning myself off my romantic notion of Christmas. Whilst the love, good will and good cheer is lovely to experience, having it condensed into one time of year, only to fuel extra activity around itself has proven unsustainable. Saying that, I've loved the ice skating in the Square in recent years.
Part of this weaning off was triggered by my 3 month volunteering in Nakuru, Kenya. Oh my goodness, staying with a family who were relatively well off had its benefits, but also its costs... The goats turned up two or three days before and were kept in the garden area. Then came the people, the blessing, the butcher and the banquetting all-nighter. No doubt this would have been a different experience for me had I been a meat eater. As it was, at this time I did not eat meat and, whilst I found the whole event surprising normal, that is, not repulsive, it was just one awful experience.
At the other end of the scale, our Christmases in Australia were great. Over there we were accepted as a bit weird anyway, so we could do anything we liked. We'd stopped buying presents for brothers and sisters years before and had just bought for mums and children... and once we had started our travels, the presents became money. I continued writing cards there, and had really enjoyed it initially, because it was different. I had the time, the weather was lovely, so had the pleasure of reliving my life with all my loved ones near and far whilst writing my greetings out in the local park. Once we began our big trip though, we soon realised the benefits of the more digital ways of keeping in touch.
Prior to the big trip, we would book a tee time for Christmas Day when most would be tucking into their roast lunches (in 30 to 40 degree temperatures !) Yes, and we were weird! The golf was always the best. We'd pretty much have the course to ourselves. There was always great weather, great views, lots of time, a few happy, happy golfers and on the last occasion even a group of total nutters playing in Santa suits. So yes, a great time was had by all. All rounded off with a lobster salad back at home whilst catching up with family and friends in the UK.
Prior to this we had spent an amazing couple of Christmases in Ohio. Our beautiful Lebanese friends sort of adopted us. One year we became a secret Santa, buying a gift for everyone from Santa was a real joy - the best ever. We turned up with the handmade by me Santa sack filled with gifts and put it by the front door and then came around and through the side door as usual. Wishing everyone a Happy Christmas, hugs, greetings etc. we took off our coats as normal as normal things, and then just in passing mentioned the red bag we'd seen, pretending to assume it was their's on its way elsewhere... what fibbers ! It was great, whilst they had their suspicions... the truth was never revealed. The snow that year was amazing, and out we went out to build a snowman. Whilst the snow was the stuff that doesn't stick very well, we still built the biggest snowman ever... so competitive! Then in in time for Christmas dinner with all the trimmings. Yes, this was when we ate some meat and I wasn't a Coeliac... life was just so much easier !
Prior to this we'd had a mish-mash of Christmases. Both our families were Christmas traditionalists. That is, saved to buy the usual special gifts to buy at Christmas: the doll, toy, bike, new game, annual, splurged out on food and drink we wouldn't have the rest of the year... and too much of it. So when we left home, it was difficult to know what to do 'for Christmas'. Whilst there was still a brother left living at home, we negotiated which family to go to for which day, and this continued for a while, but when all had flown the nest, a whole new world of what to do for Christmas appeared. New mums began to organise their own traditional Christmases in their own homes, and sharing it with their parents, turning the whole who goes where on its head.
We have tried so many different ways of doing Christmas, it's quite funny... from negotiating who'd go where and when, to filling the house with Christmas cheer and inviting everyone, to the glories of picking out an amazing Christmas tree in the snow (!) at Sherwood Forest, to volunteering at a homeless shelter, to donating to good causes, we have even once escaped the whole thing and spent a few weeks in the winter sun. In the end we'd muddle through somehow. Now I don't really bother with anything at all, I quite like it! And I do have so many happy memories of all the good times, it's quite nice.
This year we will be spending the day with my mum on Christmas Day, and I will pick up little bits and pieces to pass onto others as I go along. On the whole no doubt it will continue to evolve relatively hassle-free.
I hope that despite all the highs and lows, the hopes and affrays, the spirit of all my Christmases past will live on in, through and out of me in some form or other... and I wish the same for you too.
Happy Christmases, everyone, happy christmas... all life long.