I wrote last week about how much I love the cheesy, sparkly, magical Christmas of these modern times, and it felt a bit inappropriate to leave it there. My mother would be horrified if I implied that I take the Christ out of Christmas, even though I am no longer a Christian. So bear with me while I wax lyrical about the spirit of giving and the season of goodwill.
Although, as I said above, I am no longer a Christian, I can’t help but think that while Christmas is a Christian festival in a predominantly Christian (or Christian-by-default) society we shouldn’t stop celebrating something in midwinter. The fact that Christmas is in our traditions now is what makes it the obvious choice for me. So for those of you who celebrate Hanukkah or Yule, or something else to which I am ignorant*, please forgive me as I take the path of least resistance and celebrate the festival with which I was raised.
*If I’m ignorant of something you celebrate, please let me know in the comments. I’m genuinely interested.
December has the potential to be the worst month of the year in England. It is cold. It is windy. It is wet. It is dark, and getting darker every night. By celebrating Christmas on the 25th December we have an excuse to deck the town centres with colourful lights and drink ‘festive’ coffee and hot chocolate. We see our family members, and vow to keep a closer eye on Granny because we suddenly realise how draughty her house can get. We give each other new socks and jumpers in the cold season when we need them most. There are many reasons why we need to see each other as winter sets in, and Christmas actually helps us to take care of ourselves and those closest to us whether we realise it or not.
The only argument I have against Christmas as a means of looking after each other and keeping warm and safe is the commercial aspect. People try to take it too far and out-do each other on the spending and gift-giving front. While it’s great to have some new warm clothes or a book to read in front of the fire, buying retired Great-Uncle Kevin a new 3-piece suit from Armani is only going to land you with a credit card bill to pay off in January and him slightly less room in his wardrobe. But all the while people remember that there is more to life than Armani, I can only see Christmas as a good thing.
This year I’m doing something new. Some of you may have heard of a charity called Post Pals, especially if you’re a fan of Russell Howard’s Good News where it was featured a few series ago. Post Pals invite the families of seriously ill children to register them on the site with a c/o address, and then anyone can write to any of the children and send them things to brighten up their days.
At Christmas, Post Pals arrange teams of volunteers to be reindeers or elves for each of the 120 children registered on their website. As soon as I found out about the scheme, I couldn’t wait to sign up as a reindeer. What this means is that over the course of advent I will write to my assigned child and her sister (siblings often get left out when one child is seriously ill) a total of nine times. Each mailing will be a Christmas card from one of Father Christmas’s reindeer letting them know how they are preparing for the big night. I’ve already hand-stitched nine reindeer to make into cards, and I can’t wait to get cracking on writing them.
If you think you could spare a little time and the cost of nine stamps, check out Post Pals’ plea for reindeers and elves here. It won’t impact much on your December, but it will make a massive difference to the child(ren) you are sending to.