Christmas is almost upon us again with all its attendant pressures and expectations,
commercial, social and emotional. Some, if not most, of these are obvious and have
had many words written about them over as many years.
The voices denouncing its increasing commercialism are as perennial as the festival
itself - the lost spirit of Christmas, the devastating effects it can - indeed does - have
regarding personal debt. Exhortations to be charitable at this time of year are
endless, encouraging us to search our souls, purses and wallets; appeals to our
consciences and emotions - some more subtle than others - are de rigueur. It is
taken for granted that we should do the right thing and the right thing to do is taken
for granted - even though that ‘right thing to do’ is as individually subjective as the
many, many people who now enjoy using the phrase.
Of course, there are easy-wins here: children - sick, abandoned, abused - are the
easiest wins of all. Who with a beating heart would not be moved by them at any
time of year, let alone during this special season of goodwill? ‘The elderly’ (whoever
they are) cannot be too far behind, surely, though they may find themselves in keen
competition with cute, fluffy animals - depending upon the celebrity espousing their
cause. Homelessness or poverty can be a little more difficult to sell according to political
allegiances or personal tenets, though even some dyed-in-the-wool, proudly self-
made paragons will relent at Christmas when faced with somebody who does not
have a roof or cannot afford a turkey. Especially if they have read Charles Dickens.
Social pressures are equally evident; Christmas is a time for family and friends,
apparently. For those whose memories of Christmases past are fond ones, that may
be fine. But for the many more whose memories and experiences have been less
than happy, this can be the very worst of times.Expectations and pressures placed upon them, spoken or unspoken, to get into the spirit of things may be well-meaning enough on a superficial level. But, in reality, they can be both insensitive and oppressive.
If there is any resonance in last month’s blog - of people feeling lonely in the
company of thousands or even in the company of those closest to us - it takes a
short leap of imagination to realise that such feelings of isolation will be magnified at
this time of year. How many of us are truly brave enough not to put our own needs aside to live up to the expectations of others? Far, far fewer I suspect than we would like to think or are prepared to understand.
How many of us are truly brave enough to seek happiness for life and not just for