The single piece of information I retain to this day from my physics class is Newton’s third law: For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Why exactly is this relevant? I’ll hopefully get round to that.
As we hurtle towards the climax of the festive season, I’ve spent more times thinking about Christmas’ past and my own feelings of the festive season.
From my early teen years I really struggled to enjoy Christmas, to the point I would dread it coming round. This was was not down to any Scrooge or Grinch like personality traits on my part. For me the intense focus on happiness, and family gatherings left me feeling guilty.
Guilty because so many would experience the other extremes: sadness, loneliness, loss, and grief on Christmas day.
Fast forward to adulthood and bothering me is the intensity by which we, as consumers, spend in the few weeks leading up to Christmas day, on food we shouldn’t eat, on booze we could do without, and on gifts others really don’t need, in stark contrast to the abject poverty in which many people live.
Thousands of our fellow citizens still sleep rough on cardboard boxes each and every night, and many of our elderly and frail live in damp, cold, inappropriate houses because the small amount the state gives them doesn’t cover the bills and heating.
Even the notion of gathering drunk in a circle on a nightclub dance floor to sing along to Band Aid is utterly absurd and tasteless.
Then there are those, through no fault of their own, who won’t get to spend time with family, who may even spend the day entirely alone. This could be due to bereavement, separation, emigration etc.
This, my friends, is a concise but unstructured list of what has and continues to bother me about Christmas, to the point I can never truly enjoy it.
This year however is different. This year I fall into one of of those categories of people I pitied or felt sorry for. I don’t get to have a big dinner, surrounded by family members, pulling crackers and eating too much. In fact I’ll probably spend an hour or two at most with a family member.
But I don’t feel sorry for myself, nor do I feel any self-pity. Of course I’m sad that this is the first of many christmas I shall spend without my mother, and this year I’ll be lonely not having my father and sister close-by but still, despite this, I actually feel grateful.
I’m grateful for all the fantastic Christmas’ I had surrounded by people I love and care about, memories of eating selection boxes (minus the Curly Wurly which my father inevitably had nicked), being pushed down the stairs very early on Christmas morning by my sister just in case the big man hadn’t gone back up the chimney yet, getting neon highlighters to mark the RTE Guide despite having only two channels, opening up all of the amazing and well wrapped presents that santa had managed to get under the tree between 11pm and 5-6am or whatever ungodly hour we and decided to get up, and I’m grateful for all of the other wonderful memories, none of which can be bought or traded on any commodities market.
I will enjoy all of these great memories over the Christmas, even if tinged with sadness. I will spend it with people I love and cherish and I will connect with those who cannot be here.
I will also take the opportunity to reach out to those less fortunate, recognising that each of us experience difficulties in life but they should not define us. How we treat others should.
So Newton was right, for everything that happens, something else should happen to counteract it. I think that is what he way saying, after-all I did drop the class after a week.
Some great organisations to support:
Galway Simon Community
Dublin Simon Community
St. Vincent de Paul
Galway Rape Crisis Centre
Manuela Riedo Foundation
SOCK (non profit organisation dedicated to raising much needed awareness of ovarian cancer)