I notice how as the 21st December dawns there is an increasing number of social media posts welcoming the return of the light. The pagan festival of Yule/Winter Solstice seems to be making a return to everyday consciousness. Compare that gentle acknowledgement of the year turning, of nature doing its thing to the posts during the night of the 24th/25th when my timelines fill with pictures of trees submerged by piles and piles of brightly wrapped boxes #he’sbeen.
Exploring my discomfort with Christmas I am aware of a slow build up of anticipatory anxiety, an overspill from teenage Christmas’ where I spent the holidays home alone as I fell between the gaps of divorce and new families. It lifts when I wake early on the 25th next to a snoring husband and realise he’ll be chattering by my side all day.
Consumerism and social rituals have little to do with Religion. And, for many, Religion has little to do with Christmas in the UK. For many years this ruined Christmas for me. Growing up in a Catholic family the holy days of the year, of the week were significant, important and observed. I have never been able to align the religious with the materialism or the intellectual. The hours are spent shopping, spending money - where is the contemplative prayer, the worship, where is the holy?
Our increasingly intellectualised society has rationalised the mysticism and wonder - at least for the adults. The children see frenzy, lists and busyness rewarded with presents and fun. Because it is fun. Making the effort to spend time with family and friends, sharing food and making memories is what life is all about. And for many the permission granted by corporate institutions to have time away from the office, from work gives the ideal opportunity, and for many the only time in the year to travel and spend time together. We are fortunate, hardly anyone in my family works within the corporate world. We are actors, writers, musicians, carpenters, chefs we can step off the world whenever and wherever we like - and we do.
There is value to this time of year. Looking inwards, reviewing the year past, a pause in the busyness to reflect on what is in important to each and every one of us. After a busy year full of changes in my work and family life it’s great to know that for the next seven days my diary is (almost) empty.
When I am asked if I’m ready for Christmas I always reply yes. Because I always am. There are no holy days or holidays observed by Quakers…..
‘…all of life is sacramental; that since all times are therefore holy, no time should be marked out as more holy; that what God has done for us should always be remembered and not only on the occasions named Christmas, Easter and Pentecost.’