Christmas is going to be a little different this year. Quite unlike any other in our lifetime, I would hasten to suggest. This Christmas, in a scenario stranger than fiction, we have been forewarned by our governments where we can shop, how far we can travel and who we can and can’t hug, all in order to give us the best chance of keeping our inveterate family Christmas during a global health pandemic.
It’s interesting isn’t it, just how important the tradition of Christmas is, irrespective of people’s faith. Why this day above others? Why this particular festival? The celebration of a baby, born in a manger to a young, poor refugee couple in the Middle East. This day has come to mean so much to so many, whether or not people believe that this child was indeed divine, doesn’t seem to prevent believer, agnostic or atheist, from wanting to mark the day as a time for convivial joy. A time to be generous, to think of others and to be together. For me, Christmas is a time of hope and a picture, albeit fleeting, of life as we would want it, at peace with one another and surrounded by those we love the most.
With all of the daily difficulties we’re required to wade through, it could be reasonable to surrender to the gloom of it all. To burry our heads and wait for the season to pass, to skip a Christmas, but I would argue that we need it this year more than ever! Christmas brings out the best in us, and we need to be at our best right now.
As a coping mechanism to the tragedy of Covid-19, I am trying to adjust my filter, to tune-out some of the woe and tune-in as much hope as I can find. To search out moments of joy and kindness amongst the day to day.
This concept was kickstarted by a recent trip to my local Sainsbury’s, where I noticed, for the first time, three large boxes overflowing with food positioned between the checkouts and the exit. Not second-hand clutter, bin bagged off to a charity shop, but new, in-date produce that had selected on a customer’s weekly shop and donated to an anonymous person in need. It was enough to lift my spirits that day. Why hadn’t I thought of buying something on my round? It honestly hadn’t even crossed my mind. Ever since, I’ve been looking for more momentary boosters like it, to lift my spirits and be reminded of the very best of human nature. I’ve since found that by adjusting my filter, albeit slightly, it has allowed me to see examples of hope all around. The hospital and care staff working double shifts to make up for missing colleagues. The charities that limp on, despite their depleted budgets, determined to keep going for their cause. The hundreds of volunteers working in food banks this winter to get supplies to hungry households. The stoicism, the selflessness, the service, the sacrifice. The best of us.
Dr Martin Luther King famously said that “only in the darkness can you see the stars.” And I’ve certainly been dazzled by a few this year. People who have chosen to meet this thoroughly gloomy year with a steely determination to remain positive, however dire their circumstances.
I wonder what I could do this Christmas that priorities kindness, hope and positivity? How can I be an anonymous blessing to someone? Who do I need to look out for and consider? Whom should I try not to overlook? How can I apply the Christmas story, the ultimate example of human sacrifice and love, to my present surroundings? How do I take up this Covid-Christmas challenge?
I think I’ll start with another trip around Sainsburys.