There is a house on a hill far, far away, across the ocean, across huge fields and deep forests, and my mom is writing a Christmas card to me sitting at her old table, wearing a blue warm shawl around shoulders in her small lovely room. Letters are lining up unevenly, and the card always starts with “My dear daughter”.
Christmas time is very special time not only because we are trying to do something good for others, to give more than take, to support more than we usually do, but also because it brings back memories. If you’re older like me, you are having plenty of memories, as well. Each year has been marked with some event, some person, some special gift, somebody’s birth, wedding or death. I intentionally sometimes do not look through photos. These are the old, real photos on paper that I’m talking about; a few are grey-yellowish already since they’ve been taken more than 50 years ago. I don’t want to hurt myself too much because that is the past and it’s not in our power to return to life those people who have walked away either from us, or from this dimension.
If you are like me, your friends and family live very far away in another continent. My husband’s family is in Canada, but nobody resides close to us. Our Christmas means only two of us, and I am so grateful it is two, not only one. I have had completely lonely Christmas and bad ones, too, when there was no food on the table and when I even couldn’t get a bus ticked to get to my family back then in Latvia. I have been sick during some Christmas and I have been extremely happy also. I have been even freezing terribly during some Christmas, there was very little firewood at home, and we needed it badly to keep the fire in the stove going and ourselves from freezing.
If you are a very sensitive person who easily slides into depression, you should keep yourself away from the most painful memories, too. Some tear or a few running down the cheek is absolutely fine, but we shouldn’t submerge ourselves into a deep, dark, lonely lake of tears and melancholy. It helps to be among other people, at least chatting with online friends or somebody over the phone will make it feel as if together with somebody. There are always events at the church, and nobody feels lonely there. It is wrong to assume that one has to be only smiles if they want to cry in reality. It is fine to let your memories unfold as long as they don’t wrap you up in a too thick layer of regrets, feeling of guilt and sadness. The worst companion for a lonely grieving person is alcohol. It can create the illusion of joy and pleasure, but it fades away very quickly leaving one in deeper depression than ever. Whatever you do, do not use alcohol as a pain reliever. The blurry mind gives us wrong instructions and takes onto wrong route.
Whatever our memories and situation at Christmas, there is always something to be grateful for. It is fantastic to be with somebody. It is great to have good food. It is excellent to have lights and candles and to be warm. It is a blessing to have somebody who loves you and who you can love in return. Don’t have a party? So what? Have to stay in bed? Well, next year should be having a better ending then. Things did not happen as you expected? They here and there do, and they very often don’t. Too busy, too many guests, too boring and tiring party? Relax; take your time, one can always find an excuse to sit down at some quiet corner.
My best Christmas memories are associated with family which is far away at the moment. We were very happy together. Celebration was not that much about plenty or expensive gifts those times, but mostly about the great feeling, Christmas warmth, delicious self-made meals, Christmas songs. Our tradition also includes saying a Christmas poem at the tree, and all kids were doing that in order to receive their gifts. It was always a bit different in Latvia: the biggest celebration is on December 24. We are supposed to have 9 dishes on the table; we are supposed to eat something 9 times during this night, we sing a lot of special Christmas songs and we have also other 2000 year old traditions: like dressing up in special costumes and visiting other houses in the neighbourhood. It used to be so much fun that sometimes we returned home only by 3 or 4 in the morning. We were laughing a lot, even dancing. Giving, receiving and unwrapping of gifts was always done on December 24, as well. Therefore, Canadian Christmas seems quite boring to me. It’s most likely a very nice celebration when somebody gives a Christmas party, but it is a really slowly unwinding night for people who do not have any guests, visitors and who are simply lonely.
We cannot buy love or happiness with a gift, but we can show our love and gratitude. Giving somebody an opportunity to feel safe and preventing somebody from loneliness is a valuable gift, as well. There are people who only need you to be with them, and not much more. To light up a candle, to make a place for joy.