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Here Comes Treble: A Christmas To Suit Everyone

...American author, Lenora Mattingly Weber, wrote: “Christmas is for children. But it is for grownups too. Even if it is a headache, a chore, and nightmare, it is a period of necessary defrosting of chill and hide-bound hearts."...

Isabel Bradley brings us a splendidly gift-wrapped article about THE BIG DAY which is almost upon us.

Yesterday, I woke to the sound of bells: alarm bells ringing in my head. Christmas is three days away and I’ve made almost no preparations.

There are almost as many ways of celebrating, or ignoring Christmas, as there are celebrants.

Of those who celebrate on Christmas Eve many are of the Catholic faith and European descent. They celebrate with candlelit dinners and gifts under the tree and attendance at midnight mass and lots of carol-singing.

Many Protestants have big family gatherings on Christmas Day, enjoying a large meal at midday, opening gifts either first thing in the morning or after lunch and attending church services sometime during the morning.

For those whose Christian faith is strong, the religious and spiritual meaning of Christmas makes this the most important celebration of their year. Their celebration centres on praise, worship and caring for others. It is a time of joy and of hope.

There are many whose belief is either not strong, or non-existent, who nevertheless mark the winter or summer solstice depending on which hemisphere they live in, with traditional Christmas celebrations.

Families, by tradition, habit or expectation, spend Christmas together. Burton Hillis. of Better Homes and Gardens, said, “The best of all gifts around any Christmas tree” is “the presence of a happy family all wrapped up in each other.”

Every mother wishes that her children will gather and be joyful together at Christmas-time and all year ‘round. That is all very well, but if Johnny couldn’t stand the sight of Billy when they were children, what guarantees are there that John won’t punch Bill in the face after a few egg-nogs? Victor Borge’s cynical take on Christmas: “Santa Claus has the right idea - visit people only once a year,” surely resonates with many people who dislike their relatives. As adults, celebrating Christmas with family should be optional rather than compulsory.

The presence of children in a household changes everything. They bring back the excitement we used to feel, about Father Christmas, Santa Claus, or Saint Nicholas appearing in our home silently in the middle of the night, bearing gifts. The thrill of the gaudy decorations, the tree, the nativity scene, Christmas carols at school and church and on the radio and in the shops.

Charles Dickens’ nostalgia about Christmas-past rings true: “Time was with most of us, when Christmas Day, encircling all our limited world like a magic ring, left nothing out for us to miss or seek; bound together all our home enjoyments, affections, and hopes; grouped everything and everyone round the Christmas fire, and make the little picture shining in our bright young eyes, complete.” Erma Bombeck remarked, “There's nothing sadder in this world than to awake Christmas morning and not be a child.” And Joan Mills said, “Christmas is the keeping place for memories of our innocence.”

American author, Lenora Mattingly Weber, wrote: “Christmas is for children. But it is for grownups too. Even if it is a headache, a chore, and nightmare, it is a period of necessary defrosting of chill and hide-bound hearts." Somehow, that ‘defrosting’ of hearts doesn’t always happen. In many cases, the traditional family gathering of Christmas can create tension, creating rather than thawing those ‘chill and hide-bound hearts’. After all, the expectations of most people who regularly and gleefully ‘celebrate’ Christmas, are enormous.

Gifts must be bought for a never-ending catalogue of people: some we may care about, some we’d rather not know and some hold no interest for us whatever. Such purchases absorb a large amount of hard-earned money that we would prefer to use for practically any other purpose. Many people would agree with Jerry Seinfeld: “…the true spirit of Christmas: people being helped by people other than me.” Yes, that is Scrooge-like and cynical. However, if gifts have to be chosen, Lenore Hershey suggests: “Do give books - religious or otherwise - for Christmas. They're never fattening, seldom sinful, and permanently personal."

If we want to give something that benefits others, a donation to a retirement home, an orphanage, or animal welfare, will do far more than buying gifts for people who don’t need them and won’t appreciate them. In these difficult financial times, perhaps giving of our time to such institutions would be greatly appreciated.

We’re expected to spend hours writing and sending greeting cards, which cost a fortune, to people we seldom see and only communicate with once a year. Better to phone the people we really like and spend time catching up with the news in person, than cluttering hundreds of mantelpieces with cards that will eventually be thrown away.

Wives and mothers are expected, no matter the weather or the financial state of the home, to produce vast dinners at which hordes of family will over-indulge in food and drink.

Preparation can take days or even weeks. Then, when everyone’s finished gorging themselves, wives and mothers spend more hours clearing debris, either into a dishwasher or a sink, working like slaves, while everyone else retires to the lounge in front of the TV, or to the garden to laze in the sun.

Many women would agree with Wendy Cope, who said, “Bloody Christmas, here again, let us raise a loving cup, peace on earth, goodwill to men, and make them do the washing up.” It’s so much more pleasant to go to a restaurant, to let the professionals cook and serve and clean up.

Then there are the Christmas Decorations. Wonderful for children, wearying for adults. Steve Wright declared that “Tinsel is really snakes’ mirrors.” And on the subject of Christmas trees, Spike Milligan says it best:

“It is every little girl's dream to be
’The fairy on a Christmas tree.
”A wand in her hand,
”A smile on her face.
”And a tree in a most peculiar place.”

There are the Christmas carols and inane pop tunes that plague us in every public space from the end of October for a back-to-back play of two entire months. Heard once, they are lovely; sung a few times in church, they certainly rouse the spirit of Christmas. But the constant pounding of the same tunes, many of them appallingly boring, noisy and brainless, wears on the nerves.

Why should we spend all this effort for one day in 365? Bob Hope had a better idea: “My idea of Christmas, whether old-fashioned or modern, is very simple: loving others. Come to think of it, why do we have to wait for Christmas to do that?"

All things considered, author Bill McKibben sums the entire matter up beautifully: “There is no ideal Christmas; only the one Christmas you decide to make as a reflection of your values, desires, affections, traditions.”

Whatever your way of celebrating Christmas, let it be filled with joy, love and laughter.

Until next time… ‘here comes Treble!’

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By Isabel Bradley

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