Christmas blues – It’s a harsh, shallow world in the winter!
“I stopped celebrating Christmas in 2013, the first Christmas that our suicide crisis centre was open. After witnessing our clients experiencing so much pain as 25 December approached, it never felt right to join in the festivities again.” Joy Hibbins writing in The Independant December 2016
For many people, it’s not a ‘Marshmallow World In the Winter’ and ‘December’ won’t ‘Be Magic Again’.
I’m not talking about the homeless, some of whom will have a greater chance of company at Christmas than the lonely, forgotten grandma or grandad for whom the night will indeed be silent.
December 1st, I was happily singing the Kate Bush classic, December Will Be Magic Again – no Christmas blues in sight.
I was on stage with 100 other singers in a choir.
(I should say here, the choir was raising money for a charity helping those in need.)
Did I believe in what I was singing? No. Not for a single second. That lyric is wrong. To truly reflect the nature of Christmas, it needs to be changed. It should say:
‘December will be magic again for SOME people. But for far too many, it’s the month of loneliness that will reach its painful peak on Christmas Day’.
But that lyric has no sugar on it and it’s clumsy. It doesn’t go well with the rest of the lyrics about the white city being so beautiful. Or, old St. Nicholas being up the chimney.
Above all, it doesn’t fit with the big fat Christmas lie that is peddled by the retail industry every year.
“Old St. Nicholas” is not up the chimneys of many people. People who don’t wake up to the scenes of Christmas warmth trotted out by companies such as Coca Cola.
We also sang a beautiful Joni Mitchell song – River – which does get closer to the theme of Christmas blues.
The lyrics get a little closer to the truth as she sings about the coming of Christmas. The putting up of reindeer, the cutting down of trees, and the singing songs of joy and peace.
But don’t let that fool you because she wishes she had a river to skate away from it all on. Why? She made her baby cry apparently. And now she’s all alone, facing her selfishness and the fact that she’s hard to handle.
Well done Joni. That’s a bit more like the truth for so many people at Christmas. People who don’t so much live in a ‘marshmallow world’ as a harsh shallow world.
Christmas advertising has us believing we all need new sofas.
And if we order NOW we can have them in time for Christmas.
And then we can all sit on our new sofas, in our beautiful Christmas pyjamas.
Matching pyjamas of course and sipping egg nog as one big happy smiley, jing jing jingling family.
Opening our presents perfectly wrapped in sparkling paper while a roaring fire crackles in the grate.
Oh and everyone has perfect teeth.
Are you fooled by this bull s***?
Listen you people who feel empty because you don’t have a glowingly warm Christmas surrounded by loved ones.
For many, this scenario only exists in Waitrose/Tesco/Asda/Sainsbury’s glorious Technicolor advertising.
Maybe this idyllic scene will unfold in some households.
Perhaps you will find yourself cooking a sumptuous Christmas lunch.
Maybe your loving family members will be drifting in and out of the kitchen.
Perhaps they will have cheeks flushed from wine as they help peel sprouts and reminisce about Christmases past.
But a huge number of people do not have this kind of a day.
Many are left feeling sad, despressed, lonely, unwanted and for some, suicidal.
This is why I dislike Christmas and see the potential for Christmas blues in so many people.
As Joy Hibbins says, it doesn’t feel right to celebrate Christmas.
Not when there are many people for whom all the jollity and hype causes such feelings of despair and loneliness.
I first began to feel this way many years ago
I was at a huge Christmas lunch in a private member’s club.
(No big deal, anyone could join and be a member.)
I was at a table with my aging parents and the room was filled to capacity.
Each table had groups of friends and family.
The tables were laid out very festively with Christmas crackers and treats.
It was all very lovely, warm and fuzzy – full of Christmas cheer.
Until, that is, I happened to look up.
Across the room, I saw one elderly lady sitting alone at a table.
The scene hit me like a thump in the guts – it was the Christmas blues personified.
As I watched, people at tables around her were pulling their Christmas crackers and putting their coloured paper hats on.
This lady picked up her cracker.
She looked helplessly around her and then she did the saddest thing I have ever seen.
She took both ends of the snap inside the cracker and pulled them both herself.
It was a fleeting glimpse of the pain Christmas blues can inflict.
To this day, I deeply regret not leaping over tables and going to ask if she wanted company.
I was as guilty as every person in that room.
For I did nothing.
I did not do the human thing and ask if I could join her.
She may of course have said no. But, she would have had a choice.
I sat at my table feeling very uncomfortable for the rest of the lunch.
There was no room at our table for her.
I also knew my parents would not understand if I got up and left them to sit with a stranger.
So I did nothing except sit there feeling like shit – which was of no help to anyone.
And then when I looked up again at some point, she had gone and I never saw her again.
That scene has never left my mind.
Neither has the shame of being a part of the culture in the room that allowed this to happen.
Christmas can very painfully accentuate what people successfully hide from for the rest of the year.
So many people are ‘unclaimed’ on Christmas Day.
The one day of the year when there is nowhere left hide.
No way to mask the fact that they are lonely and maybe being ignored by younger family members.
All the places where the lonely among us can get out and talk to people are closed.
Shops, libraries, community centres (although thankfully many community centres are open for this very reason now).
It’s almost as if the bustle of life suddenly stops on Christmas Day.
It’s a bit like musical chairs.
Only in this game, when the music stops, if you don’t have a family to be with you are out. It’s just horrible.
Society is no better than I was when I failed to include that woman sitting all alone at Christmas lunch.
Most of us are knowlingly ignoring the fact that a huge number of people will be alone on Christmas Day. We say, ‘well it’s sad but what can I do about it?’
What we can do?
We can ASK our own friends and aquaintances what they are doing Christmas day.
Particularly single ones with children living away.
Would you tell people if you were going to be alone? That would be a hard thing to do for so many reasons. So ASK.
We can share our day with people for whom life circumstances have left them in a lonely place.
The death of partners, divorce, adult children who live away.
Adult children who, as is becoming more and more common these days, rarely communicate with older family members.
Don’t assume everyone is ‘sorted’ for Christmas day. Ask the question. Be inclusive not selfish.
Can we make Christmas day better for people who may not have the courage to admit they will be alone?
Don’t let this be a case of Silent Night for those who long to have some company on Christmas Day.
And while we are at it, perhaps we could keep it going all year.
Did you like this post? You may like this more upbeat post about my experience at a life drawing class. It gave me the willys – no really it did.🤣