By Joyce Rubotham @seoighee
Imagine you don’t know what Christmas is, you’ve never heard of it – Would you recognise it from the descriptions given in our favourite traditional carols?
“The most wonderful time of the year,” or “Peace and goodwill.”
When I look around in December I don’t see much peace. It doesn’t feel peaceful or wonderful. It feels completely insane. The most crazy time of the year.
Christmas is losing its spiritual essence. We have allowed it to become a retail-driven frenzy. The modern spirit of Christmas is buy, buy, buy.
I’m not religious. I welcome the secularisation of previously religious institutions like schools, hospitals and national feasts. I welcome if you like, the secularisation of Christmas. But Christmas without religion does not mean Christmas without meaning, without depth.
Every Christmas I put a lot of thought into replacing religion with something worthy, something meaningful, spiritual.
It’s a huge challenge. As a single parent, the entire organisation of Christmas is on my shoulders. Keeping a clear and measured head when everyone seems so busy buying, wrapping, drinking is difficult. It’s very easy to get caught up in the frenzy.
The fear of being without at Christmas, the addiction that drives consumerism. It’s the will there be enough? What if the children are disappointed, what if we run out of mince pies, wine, fresh cream. That could ruin Christmas, right?
I’m not the only one. I see people stocking up like there’s a nuclear holocaust coming. See what I’ve just done there? I’ve just compared Christmas to a nuclear apocalypse. Please don’t be offended.
Is it possible to create a sense of spiritualism without religion and in spite of gross commercialisation at Christmas?
At the heart of Christmas is a mid-winter festival, with lights, the smell of fresh pine and winter spices.
It’s a chance to take a break, time away from work, school and routine. A time to have time. To be with friends, family and loved ones.
I hear so many parents saying that Christmas is all about the children. When we are shopping, cleaning, drinking we are sacrificing time that could be spent with our children and loved ones.
For me, the best way to enjoy the season is to play with my children, to be present and to just enjoy the fact that very soon the days will be getting brighter.
You don’t need to be a practicing pagan to enjoy Halloween. Neither do you need to be religious to celebrate the mid-winter festival that is Christmas.
Generations before us made their own Christmas cakes, mince pies and puddings, stuffing. Supermarkets did not do pre-made to order food.
All the modern conveniences available should make Christmas easier. Online ordering should mean that the shops are less crowded. But it only seems to get worse. Frenzy and blind panic.
By the time December 25 arrives many of us are broke, exhausted and basically Christmased-out. Christmas drinks with friends now start in November, Christmas shopping begins as soon as Halloween is over. Thank God for Halloween, it keeps Christmas under control.
Let’s be honest Christmas is not really a religious feast anymore. Christmas is a retail-driven spend-fest. Then, just when you think it’s all over it’s time for the sales.
Many retailers in Dublin will open their doors on December 26. One large clothes shop in Dublin city centre will bring their staff into the store at 4 am that morning. That’s Christmas night to me.
This is commercial Christmas at its very best. Less time for families, more time for shopping.
Santa is another tool the commercial world uses against parents. With someone else is in charge of Christmas gifts it’s easier for retailers to target our children and more difficult for us to say no.
Santa is an excuse to bypass parental authority. If something is not suitable or too expensive, Santa can still bring it. That’s pressure.
Retailers know all-to-well the power of Santa, he is one of their best customers.
This is the first year that my ten-year-old knows the truth about Santa. He asked and I told. He cried and I regretted lying to him for ten years. One thing I was determined not to do was force him to lie to me by threatening that Santa won’t come if you don’t believe.
Can’t we celebrate Christmas without lying? Shouldn’t we move away from fake Disney-style magic and put more focuson the real magic of Christmas?
I’m not talking about being more religious but more spiritual.
Christmas is a mid-winter break. A time-out from getting up in the dark and doing lots of homework. A chance to eat treats and watch silly movies. A time to play together, to just be together, to reflect on the year gone by and the one ahead. A time to look forward to brighter evenings.
I see so many parents rushing around, preparing elaborate food, writing Christmas cards, running themselves into the ground. What good is that to their children? Sophisticated cranberry and orange stuffed roasted organic gluten-free turkey is not something that your children will look back on fondly.
What our children need the most from us this Christmas is our time and our attention. We need to stop the distractions of commercialism and focus on our precious time together. We need to sit, eat, just be.