May you and your loved ones have a wonderful Christmas. If today is something you look forward to and enjoy, then I hope you enjoy it. If today is something you dread and endure, then I hope you get through it OK.
I think amid all the nonsense and panic of the season it is hard to find the Christmas spirit, whatever that might be. My rather poor effort at daily Christmas posts here was one attempt. I thought taking an image and writing something about it each day might lead me to some wider truth about this time of year, but that was never really going to happen.
My lack of blogging work ethic put paid to that. But so did something else. I have had some wonderfully Christmas spirit-y moments, but I didn’t feel like taking some crappy black and white snaps and then writing at length about them. That would ruin the magic, maybe.
And looking for more general images, I realised I was becoming a little too obsessed with Christmas trees in office building lobbies. I wondered who decorated them.
Some looked like the reception staff had tried their best in between other duties, and I couldn’t work out if that was a good thing, giving them something fun to do and remember, or was just a symbol for more unwelcome, menial tasks. Or if I was just looking down on reception staff, when in my experience they are often the most skilled and smart and personable people you could meet.
Then there were other trees that looked very professional. I saw a proper company finishing off the tree in my office building. I quite like the idea of people making a living from setting up Christmas trees. But it also felt a little cold and capitalist. We need a tree? Let’s throw some money at that problem/opportunity to make us look more appealing to visitors/the outside world.
But a couple of weeks ago I went with my family to visit a local church. For one weekend they fill the whole church with Christmas trees. Anyone can sponsor and decorate a tree, paying a small fee that goes to charity. Visitors are encouraged to donate too.
It is a beautiful, emotional and surreal sight. But the real wonder of the occasion is not in the sheer volume of trees, but in seeing each tree, on its own.
Sure, some are from local companies promoting their business, and fairly obviously so. Some are decorated by local political party groups, with their leader on top of the tree, which isn’t great, but sort of funny in its transparency and sycophancy.
But others are decorated by families, sometimes in memory of those family members no longer with them. There are old photos and keepsakes hanging from the trees. Homemade decorations, childrens’ efforts.
It feels like there is some kind of truth there, among the trees, among the memories and imaginations of the community.
Christmas spirit, whether you are religious or not, is probably as much about human interaction as anything else. Reaching out into the world, or feeling unable to. I suspect that is why so much of modern Christmastime is so alienating. It isn’t that human. You walk around the shops and see the humanity stripped from us all, as we barge and moan and spend, spend, spend.
But the humanity hasn’t gone. It can be found in occasions like that church’s Christmas tree festival. It can be found in that simple moment of actually saying “Thank you” to a harassed shop assistant. It can be found in feeling lucky to have who you have in your life, and in reaching out to them, if you can.
It is hard to be a decent human being, for all manner of personal, societal and psychic reasons, but it worth trying anyway.
Merry Christmas everyone.