It’s easy amongst the turkey, tinsel and TV ads with their bears and bunny rabbits to see Christmas as a universal bringer of joy.
It’s beyond doubt that the entire final month of the year has now been transformed into Decembertide – a festival of the festive, with Advent becoming not so much a build-up as an explosion in a bauble factory. If, as I always have been, you’re a big fan of it all, someone who welcomes the schmaltz and the satsumas with open arms, this extension of the season is positive progress indeed.
But for many for whom Christmas and all its trimmings represent a time when they feel at their very lowest, the omnipresence of it all can be a particularly cruel torture. It’s long been known that the dark winter weather increases the incidence of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), triggering anxiety and depression. But the unrealistic expectations we often now set ourselves at this time of year can also take its toll on mental health.
Whether it’s the perceived pressure to engage in “perfect” social activities or the self-reflection about the inadequacies of one’s life compared to the projected vision of how great things seem to be for everyone else – it can be one of the most mentally taxing times of the year. Likewise for those who feel lonely and isolated throughout the year, especially the elderly, Christmas can be a truly terrible time, with the TV acting as sole companion.
It is, though, perhaps people who have either recently lost a loved one or who associate Christmas with a long-gone but still raw bereavement who feel the bite most when December 25 approaches.
For them this time of year will forever be a time of sadness and sorrow, something to be endured rather than enjoyed.
For the rest of us lucky enough to be able to soak up the celebrations tomorrow, perhaps it’s worth thinking if we know someone, somewhere, for whom the big day can’t end soon enough and reaching out to them.
It is the season of goodwill after all.