As the season draws nigh we begin the clothing of it. Decorations. Lights. Trees. Cards. And presents. It all becomes a part of the make-believe of Santa, yes, but for many of us it is imbued with the spirit of giving. It is a giving of the self, beyond the self. And it can be in the small pleasures of glitter and baubles that we take delight, a sensibility of something ethereal made real, tangible, and shared. Yet, knowing lots of people gives much concern at this time. Who does one forget? Whom do I consciously overlook? After all, signing, and then sending cards can absorb very many hours, cost much in postage, and feel somewhat compulsory, obligatory, rather than providing a sense of generosity and clear-headedness. After all, if I send to so and so, then should I not also send to him or her, who happens to know so and so too?
Women, it appears, feel more stress at Christmas than do men. Apart from having the house all decked out, and the tree ‘just right’, there is the meal to prepare, the consideration of whom to invite, and all the appropriate presents to give. Then too, the present wrappings need ‘be right’. The man, by contrast, generally tags along. Some of us may grumble at the time of putting up lights, and decorations, and at the price tag of purchased items, but we do get to enjoy the basic magic of Yuletide. And the extra treats of chocolate and eggnog and... well, being at liberty to treat the self more than usual can be pleasant, for those of us who can afford it.
Much of the world cannot. Much of the populace at large is so desperately impoverished and unable even to find a piece of paper, let alone a glittery card, that Christmas may indeed come and go, and be just another day.
Just another day. We tend to make of our days something special, where we can. Born in an African country where no commerce whatsoever was allowed on Sundays (not even petrol-stations were open,) it struck me as unfair, odd, eventually, when that law was relaxed, that some people had to go to work on a Sunday. Not everyone gets the weekend off. And then, as far as special days go, in the North American calendar, there is a holiday every month. A holy day, off. That sense of taking additional holidays, of having time and space to relax and do what one wants sure can drive the weekdays to an anticipated special day; a special date. Yet Christmas, one can aver, is hardly relaxing.
Perhaps the worst Christmas I can recall happened when I was about seven. We had a tree. We had presents. And by about 6:30a.m., wide awake, my two younger brothers and I were in the living room, taking it upon ourselves to rip into our presents, with exclamations of some dismay (in my recollection) as I unearthed a small-child’s gardening set: the little shovel, the little fork , the little rake. But suddenly out guardian father was upon us, and we each in turn were yanked into the air, our backsides walloped, our ears boxed. Summarily, we were ordered back to bed. So much for Christmas. Then too, when I was nine, there was the time I peeked into the corner of my present, when I’d been warned not to, and got charged with doing so, and lied about it, and... well, many of us have sad stories. At issue is not my own sad tales of the past, nor even of yours, but of the sad tales that are happening now, all around us, and into the future too. Our world is in a sorry state, indeed. And doing what we can for some other individual, each by each, surely simply has to help.
But why wait for Christmas? After all, much of the world is not Christian. And much of the world does not subscribe, even, to a holiday ‘season’ at all. But to be sure, at any time, at any day, every little girl and boy appreciates tokens of care and consideration, love and warmth, and an honouring of their very existence. So too for each human being. We may not all know how to express gratitude, and some even how to feel it, but the hobo without socks or shoes is better off for them; the addict somewhere down deep understands a direct look into the eyes, with a ‘hang in there!’ And even the spirit of Santa, large as he is, appreciates the clothing of care and consideration and the generosity that some of us, more privileged than others, can bestow. After all, such is a consciousness of Christmas, indeed.