I'm more interested in the reality of this festival. Not the 'Jesus in a manger' nonsense - the REAL reality.
Let's be honest now; most people look forward to the festive season because it's a time for giving and receiving gifts, a time when families get together and when much celebrating is done. Basically, it's a party on many levels.
For most of us who celebrate the moment, that's largely true. Christmas for the majority of us is a time that we remember as children; a special time of the year, a time filled with comforting images and sounds, feelings of anticipation and excitement. In short, it's a time that we anchor to positive memories.
I know that there are many people who have the opposite associations; feelings of great sadness, anger, bitterness etc. Hell, I used to end up dealing with exactly those emotions when I was in a uniform, and I know that some of the worst shit out there tends to happen around this time of the year. For some reason (mostly, I think, weather dependent), lots of people tend to drop dead around this time of the year - which means that many families have sadness to remember when they think of Christmas. Families squeezed into close proximity with one another also tends to result in conflict, and old enmities tend to surface at such times. Christmas isn't always a happy time even for those of us who choose to celebrate it, and that's sad, but it's also just human nature and a manifestation of the human condition.
Knowing these things doesn't get me down at this time of the year; in fact quite the opposite. The certain knowledge that somewhere someone is having a domestic dispute, somewhere somebody is grieving over a recent or not-so-recent loss, or that somewhere else somebody is lonely - while without question sad in themselves - help me to appreciate how lucky I am to be living the life that I am living.
I don't have all the 'stuff' that I shamelessly covet, and I never will have - but I am surrounded in my life by a small group of beloved, wonderful people who love me in return. It is they who make my life complete, it is they who make my life worth living, and there can be no greater gift to me than that. No matter how the world may annoy, frustrate, irritate or obstruct me, I always have that knowledge deep within, and nothing can change it. People matter more than anything else, after all. This new year will see the first of my gifts of myself, intended to - for the first time in such clarity and depth - allow the rest of the world (but in particular, those closest to me) into the life I have lived and continue to live. I so very much hope that the effort brings joy to everyone who is generous enough to read my words.
I'm loved, and that means everything. Christmas for me has become something very different from my childhood and even from the days when my kids were small and the season was so very, very exciting. It's no longer a religious-themed festival hijacked from pagan celebrations. It's much, much more important than it ever was, but in a quiet and introspective way. At Christmas time more than any other I choose to listen, watch and feel that love and that joy from those closest to me; it's my gift to myself, and it's the most precious of all. I am loved by wonderful people. Although I know that it does not need saying, at this time of the year more than any other I want to say thank you to all of them who love me; quite simply, you make me. I am forever grateful.