The lost essence of Christmas

I love Christmas and New Year celebrations. I look forward to pretty much every thing about it; the anticipation of family getting together, wrapping up presents, seeing the smiles on faces of our loved ones, decorating the Christmas tree, watching the lights on display across houses along the street.

I love listening to carols and other religious music on Radio 3 at this time - it is blissful. I really enjoy the atmosphere and admire the devotion of people who find the time and energy to share their talents. I applaud all these unsung heroes.

Dark evenings sort of add mystery to the approaching festival, as if nature is taking things easy too, almost in a slumber, recharging itself while awaiting the arrival of spring. Longer nights seem to get braver with winter reaching its peak, almost feasting on daylight as the season progresses.

The flip side is the frenzy that builds up towards the big day.

I can almost feel the anxiety in the air, no matter which shop you go to, they are all busy. Shop assistants don’t have much time to speak to you - they are trying to meet the deadline for their customers wanting their goods for Christmas.

It can be a nerve-wrecking time. Guest lists and venues have to be decided, presents and food bought; entertainment planned. The logistics of who sits where at the Christmas dinner table has to be figured out. And then there’s the added pressure of keeping the house spotless whilst maintaining a festive feel.

This period can place some rather unforgiving demands on us, and often the real purpose and meaning of Christmas almost gets buried under the weight of food and presents…literally. I have many friends who start their Christmas Day with a mass at their local church, but even they’ve spent weeks worrying about the same material things.

If only we can take the essence of Christmas and celebrate that for what it stands for - love, forgiveness, valuing meaningful relationships, being grateful for good health and food available to us. There are so many people who are lonely at this time of the year because of family feuds and falling outs, difficult relationships, illness, old age, or because they’re just going through a difficult time in their lives. They must feel even more isolated as it speeds up outside for others frantically preparing for their perfect day.

Why not take things easy, like the nature around us? Sit down with your cup of tea, coffee, or glass of wine. Don’t worry about the angst over presents, food or fretting relatives. Just enjoy the day for what it is meant for and have a Merry Christmas.