I love this time of year. I have always loved the Christmas season and summer, and luckily in Australia they coincide. I also have my birthday between Christmas and New Year, so that has always made it an extra special time of year. Now I am a 40 year old Mum you may think a bit of the shine may have worn off, but I do still love the festive season, just for different reasons than those that were prominent in my early years.
Although I grew up in a Christian household and community, I wouldn’t say I was religious. I have values consistent with Christianity, but would have to say I’m more of an agnostic than anything. So over the years I have found cause to ponder why I still hold Christmas in such high regard and celebrate it with gusto alongside the many others in our community who are not church-goers.
The conclusion I have reached is that it is the spirit of Christmas that I hold sacred. Forgetting all the stress involved and the excessive gift giving, Christmas for me is about celebrating family and friends. It is a time to stop and spend time with the people we love, to acknowledge the part they play in our lives, to be generous with our time, energy and yes, our gifts. But whereas the gifts were the main part as a child, now the love and friendship is what it’s all about for me.
I love that at this time of year there is a sense of generosity of spirit in the community in more ways than just gift-giving. A few nights before Christmas this year I took my daughter to see all the Christmas lights and it reinforced to me that people love to give to others. The fact that people spend so much time and money decorating their houses so OTHERS can drive past and enjoy it is what it’s all about. If you think about it, they are inside their houses most of the time, so their lights are a gift to the community. The man standing outside one house in a Santa suit on the hot summer’s night handing out Christmas lollies to passing cars was not getting paid anything and he certainly wasn’t doing it because he liked the sauna effect of the Santa suit. He was doing it because it brought him joy by bringing a little joy to others. And the people who spent 6 weeks setting up their truly amazing Christmas light display, who had hundreds of people streaming into their backyard nightly, weren’t doing it because they felt they had to or that they would get money for it. The gift for them was watching all the people, young and old, delighting in the magical Christmas scene they had created.
On those nights out looking at the lights, people are generally not in a hurry, they are friendly, smiling, and cheerfully call out Merry Christmas. These are the same people who a month earlier would not have even smiled at you as you passed in the street. Yet Christmas gives people an excuse to be a little more bold, a little more friendly, a little more human. We all want to be all these things. We just get stopped by our concerns about what people may think or get caught up in the stress of life. We get caught up in ourselves.
In December I love the bright coloured lights and tinsel and Christmas decorations hanging everywhere. They make me feel happy and celebratory. I love decorating my tree with the decorations I’ve collected from all over the world (a hobby of mine). I love wrapping presents in colourful paper and I this year I loved hanging my first two strands of coloured solar lights on my new fence. To me Christmas is a celebration of bright, happy, colourful things. It’s a celebration of the beauty in life – the asthetic beauty and the beauty found in our relationships with others. The beauty found in that lovely feeling you get when giving a friend a gift and the beauty found in a letter from a childhood friend you haven’t heard from for a year. The beauty of community members connecting with each other while appreciating a Christmas light display produced by a stranger wanting to give back. Any excuse for celebrating life and love is fine by me, so Christmas may be a Christian celebration, but whether you are Christian or not, it’s all worth celebrating.