Don’t let Christmas get you down
When I sit and think about why Christmas is so special to me, and remember Christmasses past, it strikes me that what made them so special was not the bag of loot that habitually came the way from red-coated strangers climbing down chimneys, but that strangely unique feeling that families were together for a period of time. It is that sense of togetherness that kindles the fire of memories, not the material goods that we stuffed ourselves with, that stay in the mind.
This Christmas there are few among us who are not worrying about Christmas. The vast majority have a pain in their soul, an incurable emotional ache from the belief that they will not be able to have an enjoyable Christmas for a variety of reasons. The doom and gloom emanating from Dublin over the past few days has done nothing to relieve this ache, and the state of the nation fireside chat on Sunday night only confirmed what we already knew, that we are in for a few more years of this austerity — and yet we are now almost at breaking point.
There are many mothers and fathers who are reading this and who feel that way this Christmas. Two years ago, they seemed to have a comfortable life without worry. When they tucked their children in at night, they had heat and warmth, and food in the kitchen, and the bills paid. And they felt their children would live out their lives in employment in this country. Now they hold their heads in their hands this Christmas and wonder how it has come to this. They begin to doubt themselves and feel that they have let their partners and their children down. In this state, a lot of emotions come into play, with pride being one of the strongest. And it is this pride which is preventing many families from stretching out a hand this year and asking for help.
We are in the darkest time of the year, when everything seems so all encompassing, when the sunlight that sustained us in summer is banished to the heavens, depriving our senses of even a glimmer of hope. But in just two weeks time, the days will be getting longer, the stretch in the evenings will begin, albeit by just a few minutes, but a stretch nonetheless.
And that is how our minds should be. Don’t let Christmas get to you. A few decades back, I knew what it was like to walk the streets of this city with empty pockets, the bright lights of the season almost mocking me with thei r gaiety. I possessed that ache in my heart because I believed I was the only one who felt this way, that everyone else had everything for Christmas, could buy what they wanted. You could feel this immense pressure on you that unless you had this and that and the other, your Christmas was incomplete and that you as a person were incomplete and a failure.
But you are not alone, just as I was not. There are tens of thousands just like you. Vulnerable, fragile and aching inside. But there are many others who will help you, who will point you in the right direction. Who will ensure that this Christmas you and your family have the basics — food, warmth, and the last ingredient, love, which only you can provide.
Don’t feel pressurised to spend yourself into debt this Christmas? Don’t let what should be a season of joy get you down. Do your best to do the best you can. Remember children will recall the season for the love and togetherness and fun that you can generate at no cost. The security you give them when you hold them at night, money could never buy. The joy you bring when you visit elderly neighbours and ensure they have heat, and food, and company.
These weeks the St Vincent de Paul Society is holding its Christmas collection — if you can give, please do, and let that be your way of helping others. If you cannot, you can still ensure someone is happier and safer, by being a good neighbour and a good family member.