December! The darkest time of year! The bleak mid-winter!
Our pagan ancestors knew what they were doing when they decided it would be a time of festival and merrymaking – for the Winter Solstice not only represents the longest night, but it also marks the beginning of the light. More recently, it is the time when we celebrate the birth of Jesus. Christmas!
Christmas can be a wonderful bright time as we engage with the festivities – meeting up with family and friends, picking out presents for those we love, hoping to bring smiles to their faces when they open them; feeling the warmth of giving and receiving. We light up our houses, deck the walls with holly and ivy and decorate the tree. Christmas music is everywhere – Last Christmas from Wham, Chris Rea driving home for Christmas, Bing Crosby singing of a White Christmas. The excitement of the children as they wait for Santa Claus and the wonderful seasonal smells make us feel good. We have time away from work and routine, time with family and friends, some of whom live abroad and are coming home for the holiday.. Anticipation is all around.
But, not everyone will be looking forward to Christmas! Not everyone will have friends to meet and places to go to over the holiday. Many who already feel alone and marginalised can feel more isolated and out of step at this time of year. We tell ourselves all sorts of stories about it. If this is a concern for you, please be gentle with yourself! Realise that for many people, Christmas is a quiet period and that you are not alone in this. You might want to make a connection with others who have also experienced loneliness, who know how you feel and to whom you can offer compassion and a shared understanding.
When more time than normal is spent with families without the usual outside distractions old tensions and jealousies can emerge and relationships can become strained. As a peacemaker you may want to make everyone feel at ease. Be realistic in what can be achieved. Seek a balance between time spent with others and time spent with yourself.
Even in the middle of winter, there can be wonderful cold but bright days. Time spent in the natural world can act as a balm to the soul and there are marvellous places to walk right on our doorstep. Let’s make the most of every opportunity to get out and about in it.
Evelyn Burke is a Psychotherapist and Counsellor practising in AnneLeigh Counselling and Psychotherapy, Naas.