24 days of building excitement, craft activities done, nativity taken part in, gifts made, carols sung, copious amounts of food bought, stockings hung, and then, in a mere 24 hours, it had happened and was over, just like that. Such a strange phenomenon, advent, Christmas and all that goes with it.
Which is not to say that I (we) didn’t enjoy it. Quite the contrary. A most lovely and enjoyable time was had. But the joy was found in the company of good friends, of laughter, of remembering the birth of Jesus and of observing the kids slotting back into friendships despite the hundreds of miles between us. The comically wet, freezing and windy Boxing Day walk on Dartmoor will go down in history as well I think! In years to come, when we recall what an ace Christmas we had together, I doubt it’s success will be measured in the calibre of the presents or deliciousness of food eaten (though we might still be ribbing Matt for his insane ability to practically inhale cheese).
I just find it so odd that all the build up reaches fever pitch and then ends so abruptly and leaves us on the 29th December wondering, what next? At Church yesterday I learnt how much of the nativity is fabricated. The Bible tells us that Mary and Joseph travelled to Bethlehem but not that they trekked on a donkey, that Jesus was laid in a manger but not that they were refused entry from several inns and ended up in a stable surrounded by animals, that wise men visited but not explicitly that there were three. The accounts in the gospels are direct and lacking on the picturesque details. We don’t even know when it all actually happened, the date was picked by the Church hundreds of years ago, possibly piggybacking off the preexisting festival of winter solstice. So much of the traditional story has been concocted and it leaves me pondering. (Much like Mary who pondered all that the shepherds told her about her son’s future between their first and second visit – Luke 2: 19).
I’ve ranted in the past at the rampant consumerism that accompanies Christmas these days, the extravagant competitive gift giving, the excessive consumption. When you add in a largely made up nativity (though granted, the most important detail of God coming to earth as a baby to secure our future salvation remains), it leaves me feeling a bit cynical about the whole period. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not going to turn into a scrooge next year and opt out of the season entirely (Dan and the kids wouldn’t let me even if I wanted to!) but I guess I just want to reiterate the point that maybe having a simpler, more meaningful Christmas is by far, the better option.
At the beginning of advent I wrote about wanting to be more outward facing and to try and practically help those less fortunate than me during this season. Unfortunately, my efforts didn’t get very far. We donated some presents and food to a local homeless charity (St Petrocks) and helped pack several family boxes for refugees in Syria with our home ed group but didn’t do anything else. I actually struggled to find local practical opportunities that weren’t limited by small folk, finances or were around the big day rather than committing to spending Christmas Day itself serving others (again, not something I’m opposed to but wasn’t possible this year with the final stages of pregnancy starting to limit me, friends staying and young children).
As we approach 2015 I’ve been thinking about volunteering locally (regularly, not just at Christmas) for a good cause but think I might have to wait a few years as the kids will need to be a bit older before they are helpful and not a hindrance and with tiny number 3 arriving very soon, I can’t really commot to doing anything by myself quite yet!
But I digress. Christmas 2014. Apologies if I’ve come across as negative today. I’m really not, honest! I feel blessed to have such good friends and family to spend time with, privileged that we can buy some yummy food and are in a position of being able to provide presents for the kids and am thankful that Sophia is already grasping the deeper meaning behind Christmas and didn’t get completely distracted by the abundance of parcels under the tree! I guess I just find it mad that even when I have intentionally tried to keep things low key, I still feel slightly knocked flat by the post Christmas come down. So, if you’re feeling the same, why not look forwards with me? Let’s not mope but be proactive in getting out in this gorgeous (albeit cold) wintry weather, in seeking out opportunities to spend time with people we love, to not get sucked into the post Christmas sales and more consumerism. Let’s get some perspective, yes Christmas was fun and yes, now it’s over but that shouldn’t spoil our enjoyment of the coming days and weeks. So here’s to a happy January and an amazing 2015 to all of us!