When I was young, living with my parents, Christmas was simply not being at school and being able to watch lots of interesting / entertaining stuff on the television. I particularly enjoyed watching action moves. We did not celebrate Christmas as my parents are Muslims.
When I was at university, Christmas was an opportunity to be with my parents, my brothers and my sister. I remember taking them out to Pizza restaurants and just eating and laughing together. Occasionally, it was an opportunity to go to a friend’s house and celebrate Christmas with his family. The friend that comes to mind is James Harvey. And I thank him and his family to introducing me to an English Christmas. I enjoyed meeting James’ mother, father, sisters, nephews etc.
When I started my professional career and was single, Christmas was an opportunity to simply be. To take time out and reflect on the year that had come to an end. And to think of the year to come. It was also a time to read books, watch movies and go spend time with friends and family. I do not remember ever being focussed on buying stuff or receiving stuff.
When I got married into the French and started family, Christmas became a day spent driving to the centre of France. And once there is became an opportunity to eat fine food and drink fine wine. Sit at the table, for what seemed like an eternity, and now and then catch flakes of conversation. And of course about giving and receiving gifts. Firstly, this occurred as strange and then it became normal. Yet somehow it did not seem that Christmas belonged to me: it no longer occurred as an opportunity to be me, to reflect, to be thankful, to choose – it occurred as a duty.
How does Christmas occur to you? Is it something that you have simply fallen into? Like I have?
I have been rethinking Christmas. How about making Christmas a time where I/we:
- think about each and every person that has made a contribution to our life and experience that contribution and write to and/or call each of these people and thank them for their contribution – what they did, what difference it made in practical terms and how it made / makes you feel;
- remember and acknowledge all the people we have criticised, we have excluded, we have trespassed against and then say sorry – by writing or by picking up the phone – and asking what it will take to put the past in the past, to get forgiveness;
- get present to all the grudges we hold against specific people and then get off our high horse and forgive the imagined or real trespass ideally by calling the other person sharing the grudge and having chosen to forgive – to put the past in the past;
- take the time to get present to all the millions of people around the world that are not as fortunate as we are and then taking some action even if that is to be grateful for all that we have, that we take for granted;
- to make a dent – even a small one – in the life of even one human being that we know is suffering, who can do with being seen through kind eyes, listened to with kind ears, lifted up with kind words of worth and validation, and touched by soothing hands; and
- where we acknowledge ourselves as human beings who strive to do good, to make a contribution, to create a good world for ourselves and our children (whether born, or unborn) and accept that despite our best intentions we fail from time to time and yet what counts is that we pick ourselves off the floor and continue to make good on our commitment to be good and do good.
To put is simply, in the rich western world. Most people need acceptance and validation – just as they are and are not – then they need presents. Most people need good honest conversations where they can speak freely without judgement then they do presents. Most people need a heartfelt hug more than they need presents. And yes, some need a helping heart who will give some of the necessities of life. If you are looking for inspiration then I recommend watching The Blind Side (the movie starring Sandra Bullock).