Our daily lives are becoming bombarded by Christmas carols, commercial ads invoking images of traditional values for sale, staff parties and Christmas concerts, shopping, and pictures with Santa are all happening at this time of year. Magnificent Christmas displays in people’s homes and yards can make travelling almost a joyful experience, and many people have a favourite memory, movie, or experience to savour and share.
But not everyone.
For many, the holidays are a time of pain, loss, and isolation. Many families are apart, often for the first time. For others, it is the anniversary of loss of a loved one through suicide, accidents, or illness. Many are struggling through addiction issues. A large number of people also feel trapped in situations where they experience poverty, unhealthy or abusive relationships, or loneliness. For many more, memories of Christmas’ past evoke trauma, conflict, fear, and confusion.
Tradition is important. It is often a meaningful way to honour our past, our childhood, and our ancestors. The thought of not being able to follow our traditions in the usual way can also be the thing that holds us back from enjoying what we do have. And we all have something in our lives that is important and meaningful and that has value. We may have suffered, or have lost some loved ones. We may have split from our families or are struggling to totally change our lifestyles and are looking to fill voids with something meaningful.
Christmas can be a very good time to begin to intentionally create your own traditions – ones that are inclusive to those trying for the first time to stay sober for instance; or one that allows for Christmas to be celebrated with children on a different day, because that is when your opportunity to be with them is possible. Ones that have you going to the dollar store with your kids and getting all your Christmas decorations together for your new place, and decorating it together as this new family unit. Ones that don’t allow for arguments between parents in front of their children or anyone arriving home intoxicated.
We can use this time to seek out someone safe to talk to about our struggles or, to be a listening ear for someone else. Maybe this will be the first time you were ever completely present with your children and not working long hours of overtime, or suffering from a hang-over. Maybe this is the right time to re-assess your life and begin making more intentional choices about how you will move through your life from here on.
We all get bombarded with messages of how to enjoy the holidays and all the ‘magic’ that comes with it. We, each of us have the responsibility to savour these times in a way that is safe for ourselves, and for everyone that we may encounter during the season, whether it is those we live with or those we will encounter on the road.
Please have a happy and safe holiday season.
-New Leaf Staff and Board
New Leaf and community contributors