"It's coming near Christmas, they're cuttin down trees
They're puttin up reindeer and singing songs of joy and peace".
There's always magic in the air at Christmas. I love to think of people through the ages celebrating the winter solstice in one way or another, from the ancient pagan tradition to our more recent Christian era. Despite the commercialisation, it is a wonderful occasion to have a family get-together, share a feast, the warmth of our homes and the giving and receiving of gifts. I cannot think of a better way to distract us all from what can be a rather depressing and miserable time of year, the short days and often dank weather. I love the sense of anticipation and goodwill, the lights going up on trees in houses and gardens, the bustle of Christmas markets and the smells of the Christmas cooking wafting through the house.
And yet, increasingly as time passes, there is such a complex layer of emotions simmering away beneath the surface and I think this is particularly the case where marriages have broken down and families have been fractured and reconstituted. More than anything, I miss my small sons and their joy and excitement at this time of year, the carol concerts and nativity plays that used to fill my days, whilst at the same time I look forward to seeing the grown-up versions of two of my three sons and spending some time with them; the youngest, sadly, having decided not to join us this year. My partner, too, misses the family Christmases he shared with his own children when they were an intact family and from which he is now excluded, even as we prepare for them to come and visit on Christmas Eve, knowing that they will be leaving early on Christmas morning to spend the rest of the holiday with their own mother and her new husband.
And, of course, this is the first Christmas without my mother. Bittersweet.
Life is full of challenges and changes, adjustments and adaptations, the weft and the warp. Christmas puts our lives under a microscope and exposes the flaws as well as the beauty of what we create. It is a time of joy as well as sadness, but this Christmas I hope, mostly joy.