Today, I read a fascinating post by Andrea Hejlskov where she rants beautifully against the pressure she feels to be happy, happy, happy all the time at Christmas. I urge you to read it and appreciate her assertion of her right not to be happy. http://andreahejlskov.com/2014/12/13/the-gift-of-darkness/
I don’t feel the same pressure to be happy all the time at Christmas. I know what Andrea means – I feel a similar way about New Year’s Eve. I dread the manufactured bonhomie. I just can’t feel comfortable with a countdown to joy. All that linking arms and “Auld Lang Syne” (I can’t even spell the damn thing let alone participate with conviction.) It just doesn’t feel real to me. I am quite content to spend New Year’s Eve on my own. Or, even better, with a close friend or two and a good single malt.
Christmas is different. At Christmas, it feels right to be surrounded by people. I think it is because the Christmas festival stretches over several days. Which releases us from the pressure to all be happy at the same time. Given the extended time frame, we can happily accept that not everyone will be joyful throughout. Over the days there will be highs and lows of mood and temper – that is quite natural. What is difficult is wearing a mask of jollity when you really don’t feel that way. And, over the festive season, if you are surrounded by people, there will be times when you have to wear the mask. Nothing wrong with that – it’s just good manners. Putting the feelings of the crowd above your own. So that your company feel at ease.
But I don’t think anybody expects everybody to be jolly all the time. And, at Christmas, it seems to me to be acceptable, expected even, for people to seek out a little piece of solitude every now and again. To find space to look inward for a moment. To contemplate the season in its totality. Because it can’t be tinsel and glitter and party poppers all the time. That is the outward movement of Christmas. And it’s great! I love it! But there is an inward movement too. Equally important. Equally part of Christmas. Because there is always an element of sadness about Christmas. Sadness when we think about the people that are no longer with us to share in the celebrations. Sadness when we think about those around us who are suffering. I have too many friends this year who are facing what may well be their last Christmas. If that is the case, how do you smile, how do you celebrate? Or do you celebrate with all your heart precisely because it will be the last time? I don’t know. But I do know that it is right and necessary to think about these things at Christmas. It is a hugely important function of Christmas and, more broadly, of Winter time in general. By spending time looking inward, we access a certain depth that cannot be experienced if we move outward only. Inward is often painful but it is through this pain that we find meaning.
Winter is the Melancholy season. The season when we take time to look inside and examine our sadness. Learn from our sadness. Absorb our sadness. Make it a part of us. In order that we may grow. Melancholy has its purpose. It has its time. It is only right that Christmas holds an element of melancholy.