This Christmas, there are three entities with big, white, bushy beards who could join us in our home.
- Father Christmas
Numbers 1 and 2 on the list, I let in willingly and whole heartedly every year. Recently, Number 3 has barely managed to get a foot across the threshold. I think it’s time for a re-think.
We happily let Grandad through the door. The fact that, Trueman Show scenarios aside, we are pretty sure he exists helps in this decision making. He comes to us at Christmas bearing strange gifts, sourced from markets and from charity shops. They are token gestures, good fun but ultimately a side-show to his good company.
We also have an open invitation to Father Christmas. This is starting to prove a little peculiar, given that I am quite sure he doesn’t exist. Having him pop down the chimney once a year involves weaving a very tangled web of magical deceit. But it is magical, and all good fun. I am reluctant to let Father Christmas go, despite the unease I feel when basically lying to the kids.
What about God? When the eldest and middlest children ask me if God is ‘for real life’, I answer truthfully “I don’t know if God exists. Some people believe God exists, but I am not sure.”. I then mention those trusted family and friends who do have a Faith, so the children can see that other people they love have different views to me, and that I am happy with that.
I don’t go into how in the past I have tried to believe in God, jealous of the comfort and support he brings to some of my loved ones. Neither do I go into the different Deities or spiritual views that our friends believe in. I might be wrong, but it seems a bit much to have that discussion with a 5 and a 3 year old (while it being absolutely fine trying to explain how a herd of reindeer fly around the world overnight. Yes, the peculiar-ness of the position I have put myself in has not gone unnoticed!).
At Christmas, it is surely important to be respectful of our friends’ beliefs, by at least teaching our children what Christmas means to my Christian friends. I want to do more of this. I am also mindful Christmas falls around the time of the winter solstice, when the days of the year start to get longer. We start to see a little more sunshine each day. It’s a time of birth, hope and meaning for lots of reasons, for lots of people with lots of differing beliefs.
I don’t focus on this spiritual side enough. Instead, my main focus is on the fun (read ‘drinking too much’) and the Father Christmas. I mean, wars were never fought in the name of Santa Clause were they? Virgins never burned in giant Wicker men to satisfy the whims of Rudolph? Perhaps this is why I go down the Father Christmas route: there is nothing harmful in him, is there? Well, I am not so sure anymore.
I’m pretty sure Father Christmas started out pretty harmlessly. But lately, well, he’s got a bit greedy hasn’t he? At his behest, shops are open all days and at all hours (we rarely see one of our close family member over Christmas because he works in retail and they aren’t allowed time off). Father Christmas’s bag of swag grows yearly. No matter how large it gets, we want it bigger. We are now paying for his elves on our shelves, his shop bought reindeer food, his expensive-to-enter residences – Lapland, Disneyland or the rip off joint in the shopping mall. Greed is no longer a vice, it’s advertised as virtue. And there is nobody greedier than the mince pie scoffing, brandy guzzling Father Christmas.
Most of us don’t feel too comfortable with this insatiable gluttony. But I also cannot help feeling positively treacherous! Poor Father Christmas, that big old, jolly, figment of my imagination – he has brought me such joy over the years. How can I reconcile the happiness he brings me and the children, with the pain his bottomless bag of presents seems to be causing to society?
You know and I know that the answers are obvious really – similar thoughts are all over the Blogosphere at the moment: I just need to balance it out a bit don’t I? Spend less time in the shops, and ordering stuff on-line. Spend more time celebrating the world out there that I am part of, and more time reflecting upon the world I cannot see: spiritual, religious, metaphysical – whatever you call it. Also, spending a bit more time and energy being there for people who need me would not go a miss.
Why do I find it so tricky to find this balance? Why is the allure of the tat so appealing? Seems Santa has more marketing budget than the more spiritual elements of Christmas. Those ads for battery powered plastic (kid friendly things, not a little extra for me *wink*), those glossy mags showing sumptuous sofas that I must buy come boxing day, those articles on the perfect Chrismas feast – it’s all just so…alluring.
But we are better than that! We can resist!
Because, quite simply, all I need to do is remember the people before I think about the ‘perfection’ and the presents. While we will all look forward to Father Christmas stopping by, I’ll try to make sure that this event is not all we focus on over the next few weeks. Perhaps I just need to bring it all back to Grandad – his strange gifts, and his good company – and our family and friends of all faiths. A glass of wine, a joyful (not stressful) feast. Maybe even a fire, a look up at the stars to remember there is more to this universe than I can ever possibly hope to understand. I’ll go to watch friends in their carol service, and for a walk in the fresh air with the kids, holding a conversation far far away from a shopping mall, from adverts and from glossy mags.
Despite my wonderings about this time of year, I cannot hide my wonderment. Watching the kids’ excitement grow, putting up the tree, warming the mulled wine. I think this Christmas is going to be a good one! Good as in fun. Good as in reflective. Good as in a little bit more about the love and little bit less about the stuff.
What ever you believe in, I hope yours is too.