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Bah, humbug!

Were you planning a frivolous, festive gathering? Have your plans been thwarted by a cunning, mutating virus, a bumbling government, muck-spreading media or super-spreading protestors? The old proverb, ‘Christmas comes but once a year’ means we really could be tipped over a precipice of melancholy when the ghost of Christmas future appears more bleak than any past! Unless…

…we take part in some conscious unpicking of the doctrines and dogmas, superstitions and rituals that, quite frankly, plague us way more than any virus.

Why must we necessitate the kind of goodwill and peace-making that soldiers in WWI instigated when they heard German troops in the trenches opposite them, singing carols and patriotic songs, when they saw lanterns and small fir trees along their trenches. They suspended all hatred and animosity, defied fighting orders and met in no man’s land to exchange gifts, take photographs and play impromptu games of football. They also buried casualties and repaired trenches and dugouts. After Boxing Day, meetings in no man’s land ceased and they returned to bitter battle.

That is no less than insanity!

Does the proverb refer to the spirit of generosity and goodwill that should encapsulate only the festive season? The implication is that people should spend this special time of year focusing more on giving rather than receiving. As it occurs only once every three hundred and sixty five days, people should put aside their differences and be good to one another. The flip side of that is we perhaps spend the other three hundred and sixty four taking. We managed the gestures of kindness and compassion incredibly well in lockdown number one, despite it not being Christmas. We stopped fighting, we started clapping, we volunteered to help the most vulnerable. We celebrated the solo efforts of role models like Sir Tom, we accepted that we were all one. We came together as a community!

It is likely that the proverb originated from an animated short film with the same title that came out in 1936. The setting of the film is at an orphanage on Christmas day. The orphans are excited to play with their new toys, only to find they are broken and damaged. Professor Grampy, seeing their distress, decides to make some new toys out of various household items. He dresses up as Santa Claus and rushes to give the orphans their new presents. He also makes a Christmas tree out of a few old green umbrellas. The orphans are delighted at the surprise. The overall message of the film is that it doesn’t take much to help those less fortunate during the holidays. All it takes is a little conscious effort and some compassion.

And a little loving effort and compassion goes the longest way in having dual benefits. In giving love and care, we experience heightened levels of love and caring that spill over to daily life.

If we think of our daily activities as a type of exercise for the brain and thought patterns, each action that we take every day is a work out for our character traits…for the better or for the worse. In the spirit of “use it or lose it”, we build the positive or negative traits that we concentrate on and workout. If we fail to exercise certain traits, they atrophy. Over those three hundred and sixty four days, we can become more or less giving, more or less loving, more or less engaged with the well-being of ourselves and others. Our daily activities in the world’s gym can strengthen our best inclinations or build on our worst ones.

We can set our Christmas day calendar, and consciously lay the blueprint for the rest of the year, even the rest of our lives. We saw, from the first lockdown, that what we do shapes who we are. If we are kind to ourselves and others, we can find the muscles of generosity strengthened, and we can engage with the whole of life with the very best inclinations so that the spirit of Christmas can be with us every day. Who is to say we can’t put up pretty lights, sip mulled wine and gather round a festive feast at any time of the year?

The spirit of Christmas comes any time we choose.

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