And so this is Christmas. Without lurching any further into the John Lennon and Yoko Ono song, I’ll just take the opening few words. And so this is Christmas. For many it’s the best time of the year, for some it is simply the worst. No other day in the year generates so much thought, effort, expectation, excitement and well, occasional disappointment.
The inner child in us all still anticipates the delights of surprises – perhaps more about what we give, rather than what we receive. I can tell every gift my dear mother has given me at Christmas time – mainly because it’s difficult for a wrapped can of shaving foam or socks to be anything other than what they are. I still laugh when I remember the two shirts I received – one large and one small – so that, in my mum’s best Irish logic – “one of them will fit you”. I didn’t have the heart to tell her I was a medium.
“Whatever way we chose to spend the day, it is fantastic that it is usually in the sun in the summertime – at the beginning of most New Zealanders’ annual holidays.”
I’ve spent a number of Christmases in Canada and England, and while the novelty of an actual wintery, snowy setting makes the whole affair appear more traditional, it is the Kiwi Christmas that wins it hands down for me. The heat and the long day can appear at odds with a fully-fledged roast diner with all the trimmings but I wouldn’t swap it for anything. I know that many Kiwis embrace the heat and take to the beaches – to create a fantastic day of eating, drinking, swimming, and sharing the day with family and friends. Whatever way we chose to spend the day, it is fantastic that it is usually in the sun in the summertime – at the beginning of most New Zealanders’ annual holidays.
While for most Christmas day is one of the most keenly anticipated in the year – it is the opposite for others. Far too many New Zealanders who struggle throughout the year because of financial hardship, struggle even more at Christmas time, and although a number of fantastic institutions and organisations lend a hand and distribute food and gifts and host Christmas dinners, it is still a day like all the others. It is even worse for our homeless and for those who are alone.
“I may have resented the time away from whatever toys I had been given that morning, but I have remembered that Christmas more than every other I have experienced.”
When I was a kid my Mum used to help deliver meals on wheels to the elderly, and occasionally I would go with her. One Christmas my Dad thought it would be a great idea to visit some of those folks – especially the ones who had no family or friends, and just spend a bit of time with them, take them some chocolates and small gifts. In truth, it was a sobering and heartening experience. For a child it put into sharp effect that while we all share this planet, our experiences are vastly different.
“It’s the one day we can share – with our families, with our friends, with strangers.”
I may have resented the time away from whatever toys I had been given that morning, but I have remembered that Christmas more than every other I have experienced. The joy I saw in the faces of those who would not have seen anyone else if we hadn’t visited, made up for any childish resentment of being removed from our usual Christmas day.
It seems these days that we are polarised more than ever before. The black and white between the right and the left suggests that we can never reconcile the difference in our beliefs or our perspectives. We spend an obscene amount of time discussing our differences without celebrating what we have in common. I think that’s why Christmas is so important for so many of us. It’s the one day we can share – with our families, with our friends, with strangers. It’s just nice – nice to eat, to drink, to give and receive gifts, to laugh, to love, to be.