The two sides of Christmas by Angela Caldin
I was in Newmarket a couple of days ago with my elder daughter doing a little Christmas shopping. In the streets the decorations glittered in the sunshine while in the shops the Christmas songs warbled over the festive wares. That’s when it happened, or perhaps I should say more correctly, that’s when it started. It washed over me like a wave, took over my body and mind and turned my heart into a heavy stone. It’s a malaise, a melancholy, a disquiet and a discontent. It’s called Seasonal Curmudgeon Disorder.
The Christmas rush
While everyone else is dashing around decorating trees, drawing up lists of presents, hurtling off to parties and Christmas lunches, I am sitting quietly wondering how few presents I can get away with buying and whether I can wrap them in newspaper rather than invest in wrapping paper. I know, I know, it’s a shocking state of affairs and even I can see what a pathetic Grinch-like figure I must appear to the world. My elder daughter, on the other hand, throws herself into Christmas with immense energy and enthusiasm. Her tree goes up at the start of December along with some beautiful decorations collected over the years, while delicate strings of lights twinkle all over the house. She loves to choose special presents for her three girls and to make sure that their stockings are bulging with goodies.
I have to confess that stockings were not my strong point when the children were young. It makes me blush now to remember that I used to fill them with useful things such as selotape, glue sticks, tippex (yes, it was a long time ago), rulers, rubbers, pencils – the sorts of things one was always looking for but could never find. It’s only now that I realise how extremely disappointing this must have been for a child and how even then I must have been suffering from Early Onset Seasonal Curmudgeon Disorder which clearly suppressed any kind of empathy.
There’s a kind of parsimonious streak at the bottom of it all, mixed with a distaste for all the getting and spending when so many have to go without. Once again this year, hundreds of people are queuing at the Auckland City Mission for food parcels and presents for their children. It’s the same as last year and the year before that: nothing changes; the situation has not improved for those in the queue and they accept that they must stand in sun and rain for many hours to get the basics for some Christmas cheer. It does make you wonder why nothing has changed, and why the gap between the haves and the have-nots is still there in spite of the work of charities who, it seems, can only meet need rather than make a difference.
I know I’ll have a lovely Christmas Day with family all around, enjoying delicious food in the sunshine by the swimming pool, playing games, laughing and being happy. But always, at the back of my mind are those in need, in distress, ill or lonely.