In the spot on the site where we chat about mental health and wellbeing, a few thoughts on the festive season.

Hello, and welcome to Wellbeing & Mental Health Matters, our quiet corner to have a bit of a natter. We hope this week finds you well and dandy, but equally, we know that sometimes life is not that simple.

Take Christmas. In many respects it is a joyous event, one aimed at celebrating birth, new life and family. It builds memories and connections for people, a time to hold one another dear and to enjoy some time out from the norm.

But again, life isn’t always this simple. Christmas can become obscured by expectation. There can be a heavy financial and emotional price, as well as an often overlooked cost in both physical and mental energy. Christmas is hard work for many people, especially those who work throughout.

Then there’s guilt. Guilt if you can’t afford to buy the special gift you know would be adored. Guilt at not being able to see all members of a fractured family on the actual day.

And this year there is Covid-19. There are the people we have been unable to see other than through the glass of care homes all year. Journeys back home to see family that won’t be made. The guilt of deciding not to have a large gathering this year, to try to keep to stay safe. There will be the pressure from people to come together, when you know it is the wrong thing for you as a family to do. So many micro decisions, placing pressure on the ties that hold people together. And some voices will shout louder than others, pushing people into uncomfortable situations, building resentment over the tinsel.

With three weeks to go it can seem like there are no straightforward answers this year. I hold my hands up, I am not a fan of Christmas as a rule. But I get that we need a bright day full of light and song, cheer and company, to insulate us through the dark days of winter. Like the Wise Men, we need those stars as anchor points to guide us towards a brighter future. We need each other to be there, not just this one day, one week, but into the new year.

This has been a year of hardship and loss, of poverty and a sense of helplessness. It’s hard to see those stars through the clouds that have ballooned above us. For once, I’m going to buy into the advertising slogans doing the rounds right now. There is no naughty list this year. There is just being in the moment. Yes, there are limits but there is also Facetime. There is still a future, one in which change is coming, if we just sit tight for a few more months.

There is a theory that the Star of Bethlehem was in fact Venus, shining her heart brightly from the night sky as a child was born two millennia ago. It is fitting that Venus is also the goddess of love, and whatever we chose to do this Christmas season, let your holiday season be guided by her light.

Eat those sprouts, sniff the stilton, scoff those pigs in blankets. Get your star-spangled onesies on, snuggle up with your loved ones where you can do so safely. Get the music on, sing loudly, have a tipple. Remember that while we might not currently be rich in coin or have our ability to hug one another tight, we are still loved. And if your idea of Christmas bliss is to make a like a dormouse on your own, with a bag of cheese Doritos and the entire Star Wars canon at your fingertips, well that sounds dandy too. There is no right or wrong way to celebrate Christmas, this year or any other. Take a day out of life, if that is what you need.

Whatever you decide to do, wherever you chose to be this December, may the stars shine brightly for you and yours.

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