Tag Archives: Christmas

Lonely this Christmas?

With the recent snowfall in the UK, my children are getting more and more excited about Christmas.  It’s easy to get caught up in this seasonal cheer and just float along in a cloud of euphoria or else allow oneself to get caught up in stress and debt.  But at this time of year I always think of those who have no family and friends with whom to celebrate, for whom Christmas just reinforces their feelings of loneliness.

Recent research findings published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology show that loneliness is contagious.  In other words, lonely people tend to attract similarly lonely people.  Even if they join small groups, it is likely to be composed of introverted people who prefer to retreat within, so it ends up making them feel more lonely.  Lonely people act as a ‘downer’ on others, causing them in turn to behave in less affirming ways.  And everyone ends up being grumpy and hating this season, when they feel they have to make an effort and pretend to be friendly and loving to everybody.

What a set of Scrooges we’ve become! I think the message should be: even if it is an effort, make friends with an extrovert, with a person who does not feel lonely, with someone who has lots of friends.  It may be trying, it may be annoying, at this time of year it may feel like more of a hassle than it’s worth to attend all those repetitive Christmas parties… and you can feel lonely in a crowd.  Go through the motions and who knows….You may well meet a few special people and discover you are even enjoying yourself.  Heaven forbid, you may even start enjoying the festive season!

Merry Christmas everyone, happy Hannukah, Shinnen omedetoo and have a great start to the New Year!


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St. Nicholas Is an Unfair Racist

In our (very international) house St. Nicholas arrives in the early hours of the 6th of December and puts chocolates and fruit in the neatly-polished shoes of the good children, while the naughty children get charcoals and sticks.  If the shoes aren’t polished and tidy, he may not leave anything, so it’s a good strategy to get children to confront the scuff marks on their school shoes at least once a year.

This is the Central and East European heritage in our family.  Since we have a number of Christmas traditions to choose from, we do a real pick and mix, to the utter enjoyment of the children and complete exhaustion of the parents.  In addition to St. Nicholas on the 6th of December, we put up our tree on Christmas Eve and  get a visit from Santa during the night of the 24th of December, find a figure in our galette on the 5th of January and have to take down the decorations by the 6th of January, when the Three Kings finally make their appearance.  We have renounced the Austrian Christkind on the evening of the 24th for obvious going to bed reasons, and the Greek Agios Vassilis on the 1st of January, but only because it coincides with a family birthday.

Normally this works well, although we do get the occasional protest that everyone else seems to have their tree up and outside lights on for weeks before us.  On the whole, the children enjoy having more than one set of celebrations to look forward to.  This year, however, my elder son (the one who is getting suspicious of Santa’s ability to be in multiple places simultaneously) conducted a survey among his school friends and discovered no one else had received treats in their boots from St. Nicholas.  ‘Not even Jack, Mummy, and he is a really good boy.’

So how to explain?  Surely I couldn’t get away with saying that all British children had unpolished boots?  I tried to suggest that St. Nicholas only checks up on Continental European children to make sure they are behaving and then hands over the list to Santa, while Santa deals with the British children directly.  (Amazing what proficient liers we become just to boost the reputation of a bearded fellow dressed in red, whom we would nowadays ban from playgrounds if he started handing out sweets to our children!)

‘But that’s not FAIR!  That’s not very nice of St. Nicholas at all, to ignore children here in Britain…’  Apparently, having to deal with Santa directly, without the benefit of a mediator, is not a bonus, but a raw deal.

So there we have it, St. Nicholas is a racist, Santa is a scary, excessive multi-tasker and why can’t we write Christmas cards for our friends Indu, Aman, Raja, Fatima, Karim…?

How do you explain different Christmas customs to children without destroying the magic of Santa?  Or the fact that some children do not celebrate Christmas at all?  Or should we just forget the whole ‘naughty and nice’ thing?

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