Christmas: A Time of Love?
Christmas has long been heralded as a time of love, peace and joy; a time to enjoy family and friends. While it's easy to get caught up in the commercialism and frantic busyness of Christmas, it is still a great reminder for us to reach out and actively value those we love. However, what many of us forget is that for a lot of people, Christmas is actually a time of sadness, and sometimes even a painful reminder of the love they never had.
Some families bicker over the Christmas dinner menu; many more don't even know where they'll be spending Christmas night. Some have family overseas; some have experienced the loss of a loved one and are facing Christmas alone. Some grew up without Christmas - no presents, no showering of love, no traditions. Some even associate Christmas with abuse and neglect. For others, Christmas is just another day with no special importance.
If this is you, don't be discouraged. Whatever your circumstances may be now, they do not have to dictate the rest of your life. Everything passes, even great pain, even frustrating situations, even Christmas. Sometimes it's easy to get Christmas out of perspective - yes, it's a great opportunity to share and experience love, but it should not be our only one, nor should we define our worth by how much we are able to celebrate it.
Either way, remember there is always someone who loves and values you, even if they don't know how to express it. It's also possible for Christmas to bring healing and comfort, and this doesn't have to solely rely on other people. What can help you here is asking yourself what Christmas really means to you. Is it about giving? Helping others? Celebrating family? Honouring the birth of Jesus? Taking time out after a busy year? Sometimes a change of focus can help bring some relief where negative feelings are present.
When we're struggling to endure the Christmas period, it's also important to surround ourselves with supportive and encouraging people. If you don't feel you have anywhere to go or that your family can provide you with this, think about attending a community lunch, a church, or link in with other local support networks. You may even like to volunteer with them and focus on helping others. Sometimes just being with people during the holiday period can make it more positive for you.
Most of all, give yourself time. If you've been hurt, find it lonely or have suffered a loss (whether that be of a loved one, or of love itself), remind yourself that things will get better. Then, think of some active steps you can take to make sure it does. Try not to waste energy waiting for other people to change - make your Christmas what you want it to be insomuch as you have the power to. Challenging negative thoughts and reaching out to others is often a good place to start.
Lastly, if you are blessed with a loving family and Christmas truly is the time of joy that it's meant to be, be thankful, and where possible, share it with those who need it most. People need people, so don't underestimate the healing you can bring to a hurting person, or the joy this will bring you in return.
In the words of Helen Steiner Rice:
'For if we lived Christmas
each day, as we should,
And made it our aim
to always do good,
We'd find the lost key
to meaningful living
That comes not from getting
but from unselfish giving.'