Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Christmas: 5 things I love... 5 things I loathe...

I would love to be able to write a lovely post just about all the wonderful things about Christmas, but as there are several things that wind me up too, I thought I'd do a mix and match!  Here are my five contrasting thoughts...

One

I love... The decorations.  The Christmas Tree covered in lights and tinsel, the branches hung with baubles of all different kinds, inexpertly placed by eager small hands.  The houses twinkling with coloured lights that brighten the dark winter evenings.  The wreaths on front doors, which seem to me to say 'Welcome'.  This is the first year we have a wreath ourselves.  I bought a beautiful one at the school Christmas Fair and put it up as soon as we got home.  As a child I loved to go up to central London to see the Christmas Lights and peer into the department store windows at the fantastic scenes set out, some telling stories that progressed from window to window.  I love the little nativity scene we have under our tree, with the wise men on their journey, the shepherds in their field waiting, Mary & Joseph headed for Bethlehem and Baby Jesus hidden in the hay in the stable waiting for Christmas morning when he can be solemnly (or rather, roughly following a squabble) brought out to remind us what the celebrations are all about.

I loathe... The tat - plastic Santas, inflatable reindeer, cheap-looking Santa displays in shops...

Two

I love... Saint Nicholas.  I probably have a stronger affinity for him because of my name, but I do think he was a very special man.  Have you ever read the stories of Saint Nicholas?  Son of very wealthy parents (who died when he was young) he gave away almost his entire inheritance to those in need.  There are many stories about his generosity, particularly about him secretly giving money to three young women who couldn't afford a dowry - apparently the gold landed in their shoes drying by the fire.  He was a 3rd century Bishop who was imprisoned for his faith, not an overweight glutton (sorry, wrong category...), although he probably was fairly jolly and definitely very generous.  I love the cartoon Vegetales story of Saint Nicholas, which is both funny and poignant!  As Miss A put it when we watched it this week: "It's all because of the song that the lady sings ('I can love because he loves me...') that helps us to be able to give to those in need."

I loathe... Santa Claus.  Sorry, but I can't help it - now days he seems to just be a corporate marketing tool for every shop, venue or restaurant that wants a piece of Christmas (after all, the red clothed Santa Claus is a marketing construct!).  The other week we were at a Christmas Party and as soon as they said 'Father Christmas is coming' I felt really quite uncomfortable.  Why were we dragging in a man dressed up in an obviously fake beard and costume, knowing that the smallest children would be terrified - they always are - and the older children would be looking for an opportunity to point out "That's not the REAL Father Christmas!" - as they inevitably will.  Why were we as adults pretending something that our children obviously found disturbing?  And surely it is confusing for small children to see Santa Claus everywhere they go?  I don't like the 'Father Christmas will know if you're bad' concept (although I confess to threatening to cancel Christmas presents occasionally in frustration), or the idea that if you're good you'll get everything you ask for.  Who is it who ends up having to deal with the disappointment when there is no pony on Christmas morning?  We have always made sure they know that their presents are from family and friends, so that the can be properly grateful!  I don't like to disillusion my children, but I also don't want them growing up thinking that everything to do with Christmas (especially Jesus) is just a story, so I carefully navigate through all the stories and ideas that have grown up around "Santa Claus", giving them as much room to believe what they want without feeling I'm lying to them.  Of course, all that is not to say that I don't cry when I watch Miracle on 34th Street...

Three

I love... The presents - both giving and receiving.  I love the excuse to look for fun, useful, frivolous, interesting things for the people I love.  I don't spend a lot of money on presents, but I do like to find things that I think will bring pleasure to those I'm giving to - although I know that I'm not going to always get it right.  For me it truly is the thought that counts.  This year Miss I has bought us all presents, which she has carefully wrapped and put under the tree.  She had £1.60 to spend.  I am really looking forward to getting my present from her because I know the thought she has put into getting it.  This is the first year that I will get a present from one of my children that they have bought themselves - a very precious thing.

I loathe... The cost.  It saddens me to think of people getting into debt at Christmas time.  It's so unnecessary, but it is so easy to overspend when every where you turn there is something else to buy that will "make Christmas perfect" - as if it wasn't already!

Four

I love... The food.  I'm not a big fan of turkey, but I do love the excuse for a good roast dinner, with pigs in blankets, brussel sprouts (just this once), stuffing, roast potatoes, carrots, peas, Yorkshire puddings...  Then you have mince pies (I love mince pies), Christmas pudding and custard.  And chocolate... chocolate on the tree, in the advent calendar, boxes of chocolates, chocolate biscuits - you get the picture.

I loathe... The waste of food.  Why do people buy ten loaves of bread in panic the week before Christmas when they know they will have so much other food to get through?  Do we really need to buy the biggest Turkey we can find (well, with five children increasingly we will need to consider these things, but no more than usual!) when there is so much else to pile on to the dinner plate?  So much food will be thrown out over Christmas.  I think it may be time to rethink the catering.

Five

I love... remembering the birth of Jesus.  Of course I do, I'm a Christian.  It's one of the most important festivals in the year for me.  Jesus, God incarnate, come into the world in vulnerability, to live among us - Emmanuel - sharing our human experience.  The Stable, the Shepherds, the Star, the Wise Men, Angels... Mary, so faithful, so strong and brave...  Joseph, trusting, gracious, loving...  The Creator of the universe limiting himself, becoming a small helpless baby.  Gloriously incomprehensible.

I loathe... the way Christmas becomes about everything BUT the CHRIST.  I don't begrudge those who don't believe in Jesus celebrating Christmas - after all the Church kind of co-opted the Midwinter Festival - I just wish people wouldn't try to pretend it isn't a religious festival.  In fact, if people don't want to acknowledge the birth of Jesus in anyway, I don't understand why they would choose to celebrate Christmas at all.  I don't like football (fortunately neither does Husband) and I have no desire to celebrate the World Cup, or any other Football related event, but I don't object to other people doing so - or doing so in a way that fills everything around me with Football for however long the season lasts.  And wouldn't it be ridiculous for me to insist that in celebrating the World Cup in our country there was to be no reference to a football?  I have been tempted to suggest the Church trademarks Christmas... but that would be petty and against everything Christmas is about!  So enjoy your Christmas celebrations, however you want to celebrate... but remember, there is a reason we celebrate: Emmanuel - God Is With Us.


Actually, there are so many things I love about Christmas -
Christmas music, carols and songs;
Christmas TV, which is slightly different when all you have is iplayer, but still lots of fun;
Special family time, building our memories and traditions together with our children;
The anticipation and excitement of the children as they perform their little rituals of preparing stockings and wrapping presents;
Writing Christmas cards to people I don't see any more, just to show them that I still think of them;
Christmas concerts, Pantomimes, Carol Services, Nativity Plays... 
My list goes on and on the more I think about it.

What do you love about Christmas?  Is there anything you loathe?

2 comments:

  1. Orli, Just Breathe18 December 2013 at 18:20

    Holidays... They are filled with loves and loathes, aren't they? I see holidays a bit different than you, and have made it a point to never celebrate the traditional meaning of any holiday :) It goes with the hating to be told what to do thing I guess, but also with a less religious outlook of life. So will you still be my friend if I tell you that it is true that I celebrate Christmas with no relation to Jesus but I also celebrate all the Jewish holidays without any God mentions? :)

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  2. ;) I don't actually have any problem with people celebrating Christmas however they wish, as long as they don't insist that we can't have nativities or other religious imagery and suggest those of us who do keep in mind the real reason are being unreasonable. I think what I find hardest is when people say things like "Oh no, not another carol service..." or similar. I can't help but hope, though, that at the very least the 'heart' of Christmas will shine through every type of celebration. Enjoy your holidays, and I'll gladly still be your friend. x

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Long or short - I love to hear your thoughts.