Much is said about the nightmare of Christmas, about how commercialism has destroyed it, about how children see nothing but the next present, about the cabin fever of being locked away with recalcitrant relatives. According to an ever-so-slightly desperate media Christmas is little more than a sponsored binge before the diet season, when retailers conspire to sell us marked down yet still overpriced tat, when woman are thrown into servitude and when the pleasure of giving is immediately followed by the grimace of receiving.

I suppose this might be the experience of some, Christmas as self fulfilling prophecy, perhaps we all get the Christmas we expect, but don’t necessarily deserve. It can’t be denied that a lot of the original plot of Christmas has been lost, this is after all a party to which the birthday boy is increasingly not invited. But Christmas does not have to be financially crippling and one without Christ does not have to be without joy or fellowship or re-branded as something that sounds like a skin condition.

Christmas at ours is not a religious festival, nor is it a commercial one but that does not mean we are impervious to the gods of heaven and shopping. Trees have to be dressed, presents purchased and food prepared. Like a lot of women Libby will spend too much time in the kitchen but is honestly glad of it and considers it more of an escape than a banishment. At least that’s what she tells me and what I choose to believe. Christmas is after all the suspension of disbelief, an optimistic meditation at the top of the climb, a chance to look around and consider what has gone and what lies ahead, the year torn away, as brilliant, colourful and casually discarded as wrapping paper.

The gift contained within the paper is of course life itself, the true reason for everything, life is bigger than Christmas, bigger than god or mammon. I choose not to take sides, what I believe is between me and my accountant and as such cannot be used against me. If there is a spirit of Christmas it exists inside of me anyway as it does inside of everybody and as individuals we can choose how it is interpreted, whether to ignore or indulge it.

My overt faith still lies with humanity and I have often said how wonderful humans are, it is people that are sometimes problematic. Nonetheless it is people that we are stuck with, especially at Christmas. I have a manageable number of dear friends to see, which is important, but I am not a fan of allowing random Christmas drinks to blur an acquaintance. Not that it’s a real problem as I am considered a tad inscrutable by the arrangers of professional or parentally based social events so rarely get an inescapable invite. I don’t mind, I am not looking for more friends so why lead them on? I don’t feel the need to be any more popular than I am, which is just as well considering, nor do I feel the urge to trap or observe the vagaries of life in the amber of social media, I have a memory for that, a really good memory. Regardless of the time and distance that sometimes separates us the people I care about are just a thought away, it is why I never miss anyone, even those I haven’t seen for years. I tell them I do because it is expected of me but the truth is whenever I wish to see them I only have to think of them.

It is the reason we will be having a big family Christmas dinner as usual this year, just the five of us. My wider family may be physically absent but at Christmas I can always feel us coming together, in mind if not in body. It is what Christmas is all about for me, gathering my thoughts, my thoughts of family, laying a mental place for them at the table, that and burrowing under the Christmas tree to turn the fairy lights off.

I really hope your Christmas and holiday bring you whatever it is you need and if nothing else you get a chance, (even you Mum) to slow down enough to let a little time pass by without it demanding anything of you.

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