This year, more than any other I have been noticing people tweeting and posting on Facebook the importance of remembering people for whom this time of year is difficult. The posts focused on those who are lonely whether surrounded by people or not and those who simply are suffering inside, in silence from depression. There were posts that begged for re-posts or requests for people to simply say” I’m here” or “I’m listening” and the thing that struck me the most was that this was a worldwide plea. I have friends in Germany, England, the US, Canada and even in my sunny, happy to fete at Christmas, isle of Trinidad, (where I remember the best Christmases of my life) pleading for people to reach out to others across the miles and over the internet to clasp proverbial hands and hold on tight to each other so we can all make it through the holidays and safely into 2017.
This disturbed me greatly. Christmas is the one time of year I could always count on to bring us all together. Christmas is supposed to create that warm, loving feeling within all of us and give us renewed connections and most importantly, give us hope. Yet, here we are urging one another to hold on to each other tight because something is so very wrong this time of year for so many.
I love Christmas and yet I too, over the past few years have been feeling that it has become overdone, frivolous and by the time Christmas Eve comes around, a little stale. I have become so sick of the talk shows and their “12 Days of Christmas Giveaways” and all the ways we can eat and still stay thin over the holidays and how to impress the guests at your holiday home soiree and all the shows radiating the pseudo importance of all the material shit that has been shoved down our throats since Oprah wanted us to have all she deemed worthy to be her favourite things. We have been choking on all of it since television became 100% sensational and we have been dying from the overdose of “must haves” that have been instagramed, messaged, Facebooked, pinned, tweeted or tagged to us in the past decade. Yet so many people are too hooked to turn a blind eye to it all and what it’s doing to their lives.
When my husband came upstairs, I mentioned what I was writing and he made a valid point. People have gone from anticipating the magic and wonder of the season, to expecting things and or hoping to be impressive. Whether it is a thing, a feeling, a person, at some point the purity, wonder, magic and holiness of Christmas slipped away when people started to get what they wanted year after year. People started wanting more and when what they had was no longer enough, the bar was raised a little higher and now it is too high. Many people cannot keep up with themselves. Christmas is becoming less about what we can do for someone else humbly or what we can give to someone to make their Christmas better and now instead of fewer of us in need, there are more of us in want and no matter how much we get, something is missing and what is missing is the true meaning of Christmas, it’s religious significance and simple humanity (all these ideas and observations from my guy who is not a religious person). Take away the hype and the material stuff and that warmth and glow we seek will re-appear. People will be fulfilled again. We can start fixing it now. Start with ourselves and our children.
Many of us have something good we associate with Christmas. Maybe it is an aroma, like that of a favourite dish or the smell of a real tree. For some of us it is a sight or a sound, an ornament, church or a story a parent or grand parent would tell us about their Christmas.
A good memory could be of a card we saw on a mantle,, singing carols by a creche … whatever it was, something made us feel good.
Rich or poor, most people have something they remember about Christmas that makes them smile. The more Tom and I talked about Christmas when we were kids, we noticed our story was the same even though we grew up in two completely different countries and cultures. His was snowy and white, the way it was projected throughout toe world and mine was hot and green and rich in a culturally diverse tradition but we both woke up way too early, filled with the same excitement with the same innocence of childhood and that wonderful feeling and longing that came about because of this wondrous time. What happened? Did he come? Did I get a gift? – all questions that stir up the essence of Christmas morning.
As we grow up and fantasy becomes reality, it changes, but it shouldn’t mean we have to lose the essence of Christmas. As a father, Tom still loves seeing what happens on Christmas morning when we get that reaction out of Logan and Adam when they see we actually listened during the year to what they liked and we were able to get it or at least come close to getting it, especially with our autistic son Adam as in his childhood he was so hard to figure out sometimes. Over the years we have watched Adam smile and Logan get so excited he could hardly put a sentence together when they saw the tell tale cookie crumbs and empty milk glass – clear evidence that Santa stopped by. The reaction has become “cooler” now – broad grins, high fives and tight hugs having replaced the jumping up and down and squealing.
In addition to the Christmas morning reaction,as a mother, it is about taking in who and what Tom and I have created and loving them so much and taking care of them everyday, teaching them, guiding them, helping them in any way we can …all that we do during the year as a family coming to a crescendo on Christmas morning because no matter what happened all year, good or bad, ease or struggle, we made it, we are together and we are healthy and happy and so grateful for who we are and whatever we share. It is about making Logan that pumpkin pie he loves so much and the garlic butter party mix snack Adam looks forward to every Christmas Eve. It’s about baking our un-decorated, very plain looking yet tasty cookies, or Tom making that chocolate cake with red and green sprinkles. It’s about having whomever of my close friends (of various nationalities and religions) over to our house the week before Christmas, excited to cook for them and serve the sorrel I was able to make because I just happened to be in Pickering and was able to stop by the West Indian grocery one night. It’s about hearing mummy talking excitedly about making pastelles and remembering how she, Reina and I would talk into the wee hours of the morning, tipsy from the scotch Dad would serve us whenever he woke from dozing on the couch in the living room. As a sister, Christmas is about making my sister her favourite cherry pie and receiving her home made cranberry pear preserves. Its about Tom bringing the garlic bread and me bringing the roast to their house and about the young children in our family and getting them a special present I know they will love. It’s about watching Logan and Adam devour my stuffing and sipping a drink next to my husband on Christmas Eve night, grateful that we spent yet another one together, toasting the ones who are unfortunately gone but not forgotten. Christmas is about mass and the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christa
and what that means to me and I think it is unfortunate the re-enaction of the three wise men’s gift giving got out of control or as we say in Trinidad, “gone haywire”.
We live in a time when we can get anything and everything in person or on line. Black Friday and Boxing Day sales have gone from a day to a week. Perhaps it is this drive for the material that makes us obnoxious and unsatisfied, You see it in the people who love to let you know what they drive or “who” they wear and they don’t even realize they are showing off. I’m not saying you should not buy what you want or treat yourself to something you think you deserve. Just do what you do in moderation, have some tact and don’t show off. When you die, your body will decay and like everyone you will become just dust. Your clothes will be donated (hopefully) for someone else to wear and they would not have paid what you paid for it and your car will be driven by someone else and hopefully in spite of your possessions you will be remembered for what you did while you were on the planet and the manner in which you lived your life. What people don’t blatantly know about you; the stuff they just happen to find out is much cooler than when you brag about your possessions. Humility is far more admirable than flaunting. Our children are spoiled and so are we and as we tend to do with so many things, Christmas is dying by our hands. So, (big sigh) as I type this and can hear my husband’s Christmas music playing in the basement as he prepares to stuff the kids stockings – I am going to do my part to fix Christmas and I am going to start with my little family and friends. And I urge all of you, especially the ones who reached out on social media to do the same.
Let us think about what we can do to change Christmas and make it what it used to be. What can we do for someone or make for them that will put a smile on their face. Let’s spend more time and less money. Spread more joy, laughter, ole talk as we Trini’s say, and peace. Let’s enjoy the food and resolve to work it off later. Let’s share the food we have with those who have little to none. Let’s listen more and offer words of support to help lessen another’s pain. Let’s teach our children to do the same. Let’s boost the importance of family and friendship and keep the magic of the season alive for little ones. Let’s make memories about whom we share the season with and not about what gift we gave or got. Let’s keep a part of the season quiet, humble and exclusive to your household and let us take the time to remember what Christmas is. Let’s remember generosity and kindness and let us be thankful that we were able to take it all in yet another year. Let us live out the season in love and let’s turn our backs to the media that pull us in all the wrong directions. Let’s take a good look at what we do have and what we stand to lose and find ways to be grateful for our blessings – for every breath, every sunrise and for every day that ends with the ones we love, still a part of our world. Let’s send out our greetings and well wishes and go off line for at least one day. Let’s take Christmas back. Let’s fix it because we can and maybe next year fewer people will feel lonely, depressed or unhappy and hopefully no one will need reassurance that people are actually there for them, ready to listen; ready to love. They won’t need reassurance because they will feel it.
It is way past midnight now. It is Christmas Day, 2016. In a few hours my boys will be up and will make their way to the tree to open their presents and their father and I will watch and take in every second and savor it. Later, the phone will ring and the calls from the family will come – the hardest being the one from Mom as it will be the eighth one where we would hear her voice without Dad’s and she will stoically try to hide her grief and sadness over how much she misses him and we will tell her it is okay to feel the way she does; that she should remember how much he loved Christmas and how many, good ones we were so blessed to have shared. I will remember a funny Christmas moment with him and she will laugh and for a while it will be better until later, when she is in bed alone. She will cry, say a prayer and pull herself together again, for herself, for us and because he would want her to, even though he would have struggled more than she would if the situation was reversed. But in the end, we will all take comfort in the living and we will know and accept that we have been blessed to celebrate another Christmas with our family and friends. I don’t take this for granted. And if f you have stumbled upon my blog and read this, don’t take it for granted either. I may not know you but I do want to wish you a Merry Christmas. I don’t know why I chose to write this today. I felt that I should – that I had to … that it was important that I did. Like me, you too have been blessed to celebrate another Christmas. I wish you the joy, peace and love this season is intended to bring.
If you feel lonely, know that you are not alone and that even though I may not know you, I think you are a gift and that you are absolutely significant to making this world a better place and you are important. You are here for a purpose and it doesn’t matter if you know what that purpose is. You will not have all the answers. I do not have all the answers but I know you are not a mistake. None of us is. Believer or not, God bless you and keep you and may His light shine upon you and may you feel the warmth and power of His love, today and everyday.