Christmas. A prolonged road, destined to be an anticlimax of disappointment, or perhaps, a welcomed respite from those weekly routine duties. Wherever we are living, and whoever we are with, it wraps its tinsel around us, it lights up our Christmas faces and fills our mouths with both Christmas carols and too much food.
I lived (as you well know), in New Zealand for 21 years, and my first experience of Christmas in the Southern hemisphere, left me feeling, well, let’s just say, unwrapped, unlit and not enough carol singing! Decorating a Christmas tree in summer, means you don’t get to see the lights, nothing sparkles, except the sun and it just never felt fair to those reindeer, who were clad in heavy fur. All the ‘wannabe’ Santa Claus, would sit and sweat their way through hours of clicking cameras, usually in front of a backdrop of fake snow, fake holly and fake smiles, never ‘gonnabe’ to return! That’s what I couldn’t fathom. I feel, at least, in the Northern Hemisphere, that the yearly celebrations tend to fit the weather. I suppose Abel Tasman, the Dutch explorer, who was recognised as the first European to ‘discover’ NZ, wasn’t thinking of how Santa Claus and his reindeer would manage with the weather. Maybe that’s why the title of founder was given to Captain James Cooke?
When I actually returned to my homeland to celebrate my first English Christmas since 1995, everything immediately made sense. Not just the occasion, but the reasoning behind why we use more lights (it gets a little dark around 3pm), the reason the TV is great entertainment and there are so many shows and pantomimes, as it certainly diverts our attention away from the cold outdoors, and of course, those reindeers actually need their fur. Suffice to say, the Santa Claus ‘wannabes’ happily return to be ‘gonnabes,’ as, after all, wearing boots and a red suit is much more appropriate on a cold winter’s day.
I do, relentlessly, consider myself a perpetual student, and aside from the traditions of Christmas, that slot, adroitly, into our Northern hemisphere season of winter, I find myself fascinated by humans and their extraordinary, and, often misunderstood, management of winter. Is it because Abel and James were the trailblazers of travel, and, not only did they find a warmer and less inhabited, region of the world, they whet our appetites for the same yearning? The fact is, we are mammalian creatures, and our seasons of change and our traditions were formed from both our ancestors and our make-up, it is what defines us, in our own domicile. Once we step away from that, we step away from our four ‘B’s; Being, Belonging, Believing and Benevolence.
I did step away, for many years, and the sense of inner peace, self-acceptance and strength felt challenged. Traditions are constant, they offer patience, grounding and something to look forward to. The Christmas traditions in the colder countries are deeply etched into our souls, whether it is Christmas carols, that were originally sung by Pagan folk, or whether it is our Christmas pudding, that originated in the 14th century. Or it could just be the evergreen fir tree, that is a symbol of undying love. The Christmas tree of life.
One thing that is destined to be a decorated with love and life, is our Christmas tree. It will be a beacon of many lights that will bring a smile, amid the grey skies of winter and allow this winter nesting stage to patiently keep us safe, while Mother Nature takes her vacation. Let her rest awhile, until spring, and know that, in time, we can too, take a vacation. After all, that’s what the summer season is for, right? Definitely not for Christmas!