Saturday, 14 December 2013

Christmas can be a time to give ~ and for quiet reflection

In recent years I've become ambivilent about Christmas.  There are two ways in which Christmas is commonly celebrated, one of them being general jollification which may or may not involve the exchange of gifts, and the other which is the Christian religious observance, a celebration of the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, teacher, healer and prophet. I'm no longer sure where I fit in relation to either of these.

I have had a think about what I actually do like and feel comfortable with.  I like the principle of generosity through charitable actions which is a central theme in Christian teachings, and an important one for me.  Lots of people have helped me throughout my life and I, in my turn, have helped lots of people.  It's good for everyone.

At Christmas time this can be expressed through gift-giving.  This is nice in its way but for me the giving of a whole lot of personal gifts at one time is a strain, so although I like the idea of it I prefer to confine that form of giving to birthdays, and at this time of year to focus on more general or directly charitable ways of giving, such as to charities. 

In considering this yesterday I realised that some time ago I had set aside a whole box of clothes to be given away which somehow hadn't made it into the car.  I got them out.  All of them are in good condition and are really nice:

Looking at each garment brought back particular memories.  I particularly loved the pale satin blouse with the rouched edging and pretty shell buttons: it used to have a contrasting skirt that went with it, but I really have finished it and indeed with all of them and it's time to let others enjoy them.  The fact that most of them came to me from second hand or charity shops in the first place makes it all the more appropriate to pass them on in this way.

Charity shops are veritable gold mines: there are things from charity shops in every room of my home.  This lovely cushion is a recent find.  Someone didn't want it any more and was throughtful enough to bring it to the shop so that someone else had the opportunity to enjoy it, and that lucky someone turned out to be me, so thanks a lot to whoever it was who made that effort!

This is all very well, but the question remains of what to do on Christmas Day itself.  I am not a church-goer, nor do I want to engage in hectic social gatherings, yet one has to 'do' something - ask anyone who opts out and, ten to one, they will tell you that for some reason or other doing so can very easily become A Rather Depressing Experience.  I don't know why this is, but so it is.

I have decided that a structured approach will probably be best.  I could have choosen to spend it with family and friends, but will probably spend it alone.  This is a choice.

I might see if I can make a more concerted effort at teaching myself how to string bead necklaces. As I have an abundance of beads that need re-stringing this is something I have been wanting to get to grips with for ages, so some weeks ago when I had an unexpected windfall I paid a visit to Spotlight, and bought the gear as a gift for myself:

I bought a handsome magnifying glass at the same time so that I can peer through it at tiny things, which will no doubt prove essential for the fiddlier parts of the work.  This is another thing I've been wanting for ages!  I love the cover and the little cleaning cloth which came with it.  I got all these at Spotlight, a great place to get craft gear.

Other than that I'd like to spend time reviewing where inspiration has come from in recent years and possible ways I'd like to make use of that.  I am always grateful for inspiration, whatever the source.  I may write some letters.  Letter writing can be important in this way, bringing to light some of what is most important to us, even if we then choose not to send them.

I'll probably chat on the phone or 'skype' with a few of my important people.  I've got used to Skype during the year, a wonderful way of reducing the sense of distance that comes from not seeing the faces of our loved ones.  I haven't seen my brothers for years and was aware that last time I skyped with one of them I couldn't stop smiling - what magic!

One of the reasons I find Christmas hard is that I still miss my dad, who died suddenly over 30 years ago.  If he were here this Christmas we would have fruit salad for breakfast, made the night before with the particular inclusion of tinned pineapple with ginger added to the syrup, bananas and chopped dates which went deliciously soggy overnight, and delectable tinned peaches (from the days when they were delectable).  We would probably go to church together, enjoy singing both hymns and carols, and exchange gifts.  His would be wrapped in the white paper patterned with the gold fleur-de-lis which was his especial favourite.  We might listen to a Haydn concerto or two, and go for a walk.  These are happy imaginings mingled with past family tradition.  It's bewildering that some relationships have such a vivid place in our lives even at such a distance in time.  I will think of him on Christmas Day and probably shed some tears, 'water for the dead', as Frank Herbert aptly termed it.

But time moves on, and my brothers and sisters and I are becoming the elders in our now extended families and must make our own way, as our parents did before us. 

This morning a reminder about the importance of giving came to me from Wikipedia, which I donate to from time to time.  Many of my articles include links to Wikipedia, which I regard as an important external source for factual references and further reading.  It is the world's fifth largest website and run by a very small staff who oversee contributions of the thousands of people who voluntarily write on their subjects of special interest and expertise so that others can benefit from them.  Anyone can contribute to writing and editing, so this is global co-operation and altruism at its best.  Knowledge brings freedom in so many ways.  Even though Wikipedia is a charitable foundation it still costs money to run: administrators have to live, and web servers and the like have to be paid for, so I am happy to donate small amounts from time to time.  Today I gave $5.  It all helps.  I encourage others to do the similarly.  Below is a video in which a number of contributors describe their involvement:

Those looking for ideas for simple, thrifty, ecologically sound gifts may find these two articles I wrote last year useful:

And here, also from previous Christmases, you can find some yummy food ideas:

~ I wish you all a peaceful Christmas. ~

My later article about what happened on Christmas Eve can be found by clicking on the link below:

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