For many, there is no happier time than Christmas. For others, there is no harder time.
When it comes around, Christmas tends to be something that either floats your boat – or rocks it. It is something you love. Or it’s something you endure.
In Scotland, there was a period in our history when, in response to our Presbyterian heritage, we were not very fond of Christmas and in spite of our reputation for always being up for a party, Christmas Day, up until the mid 1950s, was just a day like any other. On December 25th people in Scotland got up as usual: they went to work as usual and life on that day continued as it would on any other. Children may have found a stocking with an orange and a penny in it at the end of their bed and if they were really lucky a book too - but that was it. Not for Scots the excesses of meals, presents and ‘happy holidays!’.
There are those around who would quite like to see a return to that leaner approach to the Christmas season, but not, I suspect for the same reasons as before. For many it’s not because they are dour Presbyterians that they don’t look forward to Christmas. There are other reasons – reasons that are complicated and sometimes interwoven.
The emphasis on family for example can be difficult for a whole variety of reasons – because of bereavement, or separation, or family fall outs. Or because someone doesn’t have any family or friends.
Then there is the very child-centred approach we have to Christmas. It can be really tough for those who have lost a child or who can’t have any and for those who are estranged from their offspring for whatever reason.
Then there’s the present giving. If you barely have enough to pay the bills, how can you buy presents? And just like every other child, your child will want to write to Santa – how do you live with knowing they will be disappointed yet again? And others saying: “that’s not what Christmas is about”, doesn’t help if you are not actually choosing to opt out.
Many a foodbank will be open on Christmas day and many a church and community will offer a meal because they know that if they don’t, there will be people all over Scotland with nothing much more than a tin of beans on Christmas day.
I think it’s good to celebrate. I think it’s even better to do so, sensitive to how others are feeling and in a way that doesn’t exclude anyone.
Be blessed this Christmas – and share that blessing.