Audio Total in minutes and seconds, listening duration 08:30 : Reading average 05:00
Part 1 How to alleviate the stress by not losing sight of the central theme of Christmas
Most Christmas’ I usually find myself watching the Charles Dickens classic ‘Scrooge’ staring Alistair Sim. The movie adaptation brings back memories from my childhood as being a part of the family Christmas morning ritual.
Warm feelings are anchored to the giving and receiving of non-expensive gifts between the adults, with non-wrapped toys under the tree for me. All leading to the Christmas roast and a feeling of family togetherness.
As serendipity would have it, this year I came across ‘The Christmas Memory’, Truman Capote’s 1956 autobiographical story of his life as a 7-year-old in rural Alabama.
He had a special bond of friendship with his elderly and eccentric female cousin. Both suffered stress within a very authoritarian household. Yet together they were able to weather those difficulties and build upon their enduring friendship.
Even though they were poor, they would scheme and plot to save every spare dime, (or make a dime), which would result in a flurry of activity and a yearly holiday ritual in the act of giving, sometimes to complete strangers. Resulting in many Christmas-time adventures.
Humorous and touching his account of one specific Christmas was first scripted and televised in 1966.
Meaningful personal memories are evoked.
The worn-film images and saccharin music in the movie, add to an authentic atmosphere for its time.
Whilst the central theme of childhood innocence and friendship has an evocative effect by rousing personal memories from the recesses of the viewers’ mind.
I came across a review from a woman who read his original short story, and it brought back memories of her early childhood and a beloved elderly neighbour who taught her many skills that help her to this day!
For others, the story setting or circumstances may not be anything like their childhood, but it captures the true feeling of the meaning of Christmas. A powerful message, which may have been forgotten.
My memory of a family that pulled together in difficult times.
Although not as poor as the family depicted in ‘The Christmas Memory’, it was during that era that my family experienced hardship. And like a lot of families in our area at that time, I can recall the four of us living in two rented rooms, in the South end of Liverpool.
We became close with the family who lived below us as we shared the one bathroom on the first-floor landing.
My parents worked every hour they could to provide us with the essentials of daily life, and we always celebrated Christmas. It was five years later when we received the news that we had qualified due to a points system and were to be offered our own council house. Wow, lots of space and my own room! That of itself was our Christmas gift!
Part of the learning that I’ve carried with me.
Building resilience and keeping in pursuit of one’s dreams pays dividends; collaboration can be a key factor too. And sometimes it means that the results can be even better than expected! So keep going, one step at a time!
An adaptation of Truman Capote’s ‘A Christmas Memory’ was broadcast 21st December 1966 and the duration is 50 minutes and it can be found on U-Tube. The short story can be found in paperback, and for kindle in Amazon.
Part 2 Creating your central Theme for Christmas – what’s your message?
Zip forward to 2019, and it’s easy to see how people may feel trapped by the growth in commercialisation as Christmas. The media pressure, and ‘keeping up with the Jones’.
It doesn’t have to be that way. Does it?
I’m coming across more and more people who are toning down the commercial side of the season, through mutual agreement within families, or between friends, and in their unique ways.
“It’s the thought that counts.”
Being thoughtful counts and that’s because just like in ‘The Christmas Memory’ when ‘thoughtfulness’ is expressed, or a genuine act of caring is enacted, it brings a feeling of love, connection and a shared humility to the giver as well as the receiver.
And that can result in joyful memories that stay with us for life.
It can be the simple things in life that matter the most, whatever our circumstances!
- To think before we speak, being fair and equally compromising over the Christmas period.
- To appreciate the thought behind any simple act of kindness. Noticing those things can make us feel good within ourselves.
- Enjoying the creativity or sourcing of a meaningful object or meal to share.
- The time that’s given to show a stranger we’re thinking of them.
- The fun and love we share with animals who bring joy to our hearts due to their ‘presence’.
Truman Capote’s ‘The Christmas Memory’ reminds us of all these things and more.
- (U-Tube link at the bottom of this page under source material)
What children have said about the meaning of Christmas? (source CBBC Newsround 2006)
Christmas has different meanings for different people and can change over time! These children would now be in their twenties! And here’s some of the things they said:
- “I think Christmas is more about giving than getting and being around people who love you and who you love.” Leila Aged 10
- “I think Christmas is about presents and family” Declan aged 11
- “I think Christmas is a religious time, not just for Christianity but for Judaism and Islam. I celebrate the season in a Christian way.” Emma Aged 10
So what if we view Christmas as a holiday!
With the frenetic and commercial stresses leading up to the national holiday, where for 24 hours most shops and businesses close, people can choose to come together in sharing the message of Christmas within their communities.
Whether its spending time with family, friends, giving and sharing with those you love. Sending good thoughts or acting to help others who are not choosing to be alone.
“Christmas is not exclusive its message is to be inclusive.”
Embracing the simplicity of the Christmas message of kindness and love.
Do people of different faiths celebrate the holiday?
Well, Christians might make the celebration of the “Christ-Mass” in the birth of Jesus.
In places like the UK, Christmas is everywhere. It’s in the high street, the internet, TV and Radio. It’s celebrated in school nativities, in the workplace, and as part of the local council budget we get pretty streetlights.
Which means that Christmas becomes integrated as part of an inclusive community holiday for many people of different faiths.
It doesn’t mean that all people of all faiths will join in on all the commercial excess though. But they may embrace the simple act of putting up a Christmas tree, having a family meal and/or giving to charity and wishing those they see on the day a Merry Christmas.
How will you be celebrating Christmas 2019?
Whether your spending it alone and watching TV all day – going for walks, or spending time with those you love. May I wish all my readers and listeners a very Merry Christmas and the creation of at least one warming memory during your day.
Part 3 Difficulties at Christmas?
Here a previous blog I wrote last year, which might give you a starting point to get some help and advice and find a way through. (click on the pic below) for ‘How to avoid debt’. Which includes who to turn to for advice if you run into post-Christmas problems.
You’ll also find other articles on the Christmas theme of stress, loneliness AND even fun at Christmas! Just click on the back links on the left at the bottom of each page.
Too late this year? What about planning for next year?
Here’s an interesting blog by Kate Connors with tips on how to make Christmas not about excess
Source material: Copy and paste into your browser.
- ‘What does Christmas mean to you: CBBC http://news.bbc.co.uk/cbbcnews/
- U-Tube and search for Truman Capote’s A Christmas Memory (1966 Emmy Winner); Staring Geraldine Page https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_lmjU54i6R4 Duration 50 minutes.