Merry Christmas everybody?
If there's one annual event above all others to elevate stress levels and inflame already difficult relationship issues it has to be Christmas. Coupled with the ever increasing incidences of rising personal debt as people seek to finance a 'perfect' Christmas, the much beleaguered Accident and Emergency departments struggling to cope with their normal workloads, as well as the annual festive rush of alcohol poisoning and the crucible of the living room as old family tensions are revisited, Christmas is not always quite as merry as Slade's popular hit would have us believe.
Set against the media backdrop of snow-sugared advertising campaigns, indecipherable fragrance adverts, X Factor album launches, saccharine seasonal films and food mountains that would feed an army (all of which began at the stroke of midnight on Halloween) - it is easy to feel that our lives seem somewhat cheapened by our seeming inability to get it right at Christmas. Take one advert which has the tag line: "Don't do this to gran at Christmas." What are they trying to sell us? A dining table! As if buying gifts for the entire extended family wasn't enough we now have to refurbish our house just in time to place the considerable food mountain before our assembled guests.
It's OK. Take a breath. Consider for a minute what you really want from Christmas. Does it match the description of Christmas in the first two paragraphs? If it does - great! If not you may already be feeling the stress levels rising, the panic in your chest, elevated blood pressure and that small nagging voice that eggs you on to ever more indulgent spending.
What seems to be true for a great many people is that they feel as if Christmas is for someone else. "We love the look on the kids' faces at Christmas", "Dad loves his turkey on Christmas day", "I just wanted to get you something that says I love you...".
I have a question. Do you believe that these feelings can only be achieved on one day every winter?
Sometimes it feels as if we need to make other people happy before we can truly feel happy ourselves. I wonder, does that work? Not if the adverts have anything to say about it. But should they?
I'll finish with a question, one that I hope might get you thinking and feeling and one that you may need help in answering. What do you want for Christmas?
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