Use Christmas to find calm after turbulent year

It’s been some year — a whirlwind of emotion, of joy and despair, of utter horror and desperation, of uncertainty and fear, but also a time of pride and happiness.

But in the main we will be glad to see it come to an end. A year that robbed us of many of the stars who entertained us over the decades, a year that showed us that sometime populism is just not good for us. History will tell us if it was a time in which everything as we know it, is ending, and something new and scary is beginning.

1965, the year in which I was born, was known as The Year of Living Dangerously, but there has been much about what has happened at home and abroad over the past year that gives us all the feeling that the year ahead promises to be one such episode.

How naive were we to think that the greatest upheaval this year might be a change of Government coalition — yet even that is a mere footnote when we look back at all that has happened in 2016.

2016 will cease to become a number, but an adjective for surprise and unexpectedness. It almost certainly has signalled the end of Reeling in the Years because the makers of that programme have no chance of getting everything in when they come around to featuring 2016. Even the silly season of August was marred by the Olympic embarrassment, overshadowing the pride of seeing some medals won.

Our own New Politics has been a parade of faux posturing and gamesmanship, our neighbours in Britain shot themselves in the foot and plummeted themselves and probably ourselves into years of uncertainty just to appease sectoral interests.

And as the world looked on in wonder as one of act of stupidity and horror followed another, we laughed and consoled ourselves in the knowledge that neither a Trump nor a Brexit could really materialise — but it did, bolstering an arena desperate for popular change and ill-placed nationalism.

In short, we thought we lived in a world where we did not unlearn lessons, where progression travelled in one direction and where we thought we had the institutions and the structures to prevent us from slipping back into the dark ages. How wrong were we?

So if you are all feeling a bit off kilter this year, that’s ok, the world has been swung on its axis and decades of progress on climate change and human rights and the prevention of war have all been thrown into the bin. In a world where we were shocked by the desire of some elements to bring us back to the Middle Ages, Europe and the US are heading back to the 1930s in terms of ideology and its treatment of The Other.

And we now live in a world so capable of defining The Other.

But, it has been a good year here in Galway — we saw scenes in the city that may not be repeated for many a year. Thousands thronged the streets to welcome home Connacht from their sensational triumph in the Pro 12 final in Edinburgh; and a few weeks later, thousands thronged those same streets to welcome the news that we had won the title of City of Culture. Many jobs were created and plans made for the betterment of life.

And because of that, there is a sort of positivity about, even though we cannot forget that at night, dozens still sleep in the streets and people still try to exist as families in hotel rooms and direct provision facilties.

And so to Christmas — this week again we have been reminded of the horrors when evil is unleashed upon the streets of our cities. In Aleppo, the terror has lasted month after month without restraint and prejudice, the bombs have rained down on hospitals and schools. And all of this has thrown the world into a maelstrom. Christmas might offer us some solace from the harsh realities and those who can, should welcome the opportunity to spend time with family and friends and appreciate the simple things in life, because after all it is those simple things that create the memories that stay with us all forever.

We are fortunate to live in a truly wonderful part of the world with much to be thankful for, and much to come for the generations ahead. But that security can only be secured if we arm the next generation with love and common sense and calmness and a strong sense of place.

And that’s where we all come in.

Our gift to each other this Christmas should be the gift of time. The hardest thing in the world now is to tell yourself to slow down, to sit down, to chat, to share, to play a game with a child, to chat with someone for whom a few words means a lot. Switch off the outside world this Christmas. Put your smartphone on the mantelpiece. Get down on the floor and share the games; take it easy on the booze; the world that’s boozy and hazy for you might be hellish for someone else who just wants your sober company. Don’t let your children have Christmas memories that revolve around drunkenness and rows.

And don’t get stressed out over the practicalities of what is mainly a big dinner on a long weekend. Take the message of Christmas and live it.

On behalf of the management and staff of the Galway Advertiser and its sister newspapers around the country, I would like to wish you a very happy and fulfilling Christmas. We thank you for your loyalty and for allowing us the opportunity to inform, entertain, and, no doubt, occasionally infuriate you over the past year. We thank you too for your comments, both for and against our commitment to allow as many diverse voices as possible to be heard through our pages and on our increasingly popular Facebook and Twitter facilities. This spring the Galway Advertiser turns 47 years in the business of connecting readers, stories, businesses. We love what we do and we look forward to next year and beyond and remaining Galway’s favourite and most widely read newspaper, online and offline.

Thar cheann an Galway Advertiser gach dea ghuí i gcomhair na Nollag agus na hathbhliana.

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