Christmas is all but upon us. For those that celebrate it, there is much to take us away from the routine of 'normal' living.
The preparations can start many months in advance and inevitably come at a cost. Yet for most, the time, cost and effort is worth every bit the doing on the basis of the positive time it can bring in the coming together of families and friends. Traditions vary from family to family, town to town, country to country, so mine will be different to anyone else's.
I guess my early memories of Christmas living in an old Victorian three storey house with frost on the inside of the windows in winter (no double glazing or central heating) are seen through rose tinted glasses.
Christmas days were spent in the front room which wasn't used for the rest of the year. A coal fire roared, a real Christmas tree stood as tall as the 10 feet high ceiling, toast was prepared on the fire using a toasting fork my dad made and Chestnuts on a pan under the red hot coals tasted gorgeous. The extended family often visited, Turkey was always the order of the day (more than once cooked upside down) and the Queen's speech always reigned after the meal.
Evenings were taken up with games and special television treats like Morecambe and Wise with their brave celebrity guests appearing in Ernie's plays. It sounds opulent and idyllic, in truth, both my parents had to work hard to maintain that draughty old house and support me and my grandparents who lived with us.
I do understand why people are concerned about the commercialism of Christmas. Every year I hear the awareness campaign by many to remember the true meaning of Christmas. However it does seem that our younger children do get this education at school. Nativities are done and carols are still sung, not just number one Christmas chart hits. The secret is the balance between commercialism which helps maintain the expectations of a lot of people and the origins of Christmas and it's true meaning.
What us it's true meaning? Although the time and date of Christ's birth is uncertain to say the least, the celebration of his birth is a catalyst for something greater.
Charles Docking wrote several different works around Christmas including the most famous Christmas Carol, and the story's message is one of the best examples of what we should aspire to. I've written many times about neighbourliness and good citizenship in thus blog. I don't think it takes anything else to be honest. The unsolicited good deed, the kind thought, the "thank you", going the extra step for someone else's sake.
On the television in the background while I write this is Oscar Wilde's Canterville Ghost. I've never read the book, but the kindness and sacrifice of the young girl to seek out the story of the restless haunting ghost and allow him to seek eternal rest by putting her own safety at risk is a human compassionate thing to do.
So whatever he Christmas period holds for you, I hope you enjoy the time whether working or not, whether you are with your family or not, I hope love and peace knocks on your door and benevolence shakes you by the hand.