Here’s to Christmas 2020 – full of hope

Christmas hope

This year, with the ongoing covid pandemic affecting all our lives, how will Christmas be?

Well, for a start, it seems we started getting into the Christmas spirit earlier than usual this year.

Downloads of festive songs was up 50% compared to last year from mid-November. Plus the number of Christmas trees and coloured lights that went up early shows that we’re all looking forward to turning this year around with a celebration.

But be careful you don’t get overwhelmed about everything or stressed with anyone. Wanting to be perked up with Christmas cheer doesn’t mean things will be back to normal nor do they have to go back to how they were before.

When the pandemic and lockdowns started there was a lot of talk about the ‘new normal’. It was considered an opportune time to reflect on what was important to you, society, the world… As the quote from Dave Hollis stated:

“In the rush to return to normal, use this time to consider which parts of normal are worth rushing back to”

With that thought-provoking idea in mind, let’s apply this to Christmas and all that it has meant in the past and perhaps what it should mean for the future.

It is known as a time of excess – excessive gift giving plus overindulging with food and alcohol.

This makes the holiday season a very difficult time for many of us—even during a ‘normal’ year. We can feel overwhelmed by the pressure of purchasing gifts for family and friends, planning the day, entertaining family and preparing Christmas dinner.

With covid-19 added to the mix, how is that affecting our stress levels and mental health?

This year, take the opportunity to look at things in a new light.

Money worries are a big concern

As the pandemic has pushed millions of people into poverty, it’s no surprise that over half of UK adults are worried about the mental health of someone they know this Christmas, according to a survey by the Mental Health Foundation. 

As TV commercials fill with Christmas ads and shop windows are adorned with Santas and garlands of glittering tinsel, we are constantly reminded of the commercial side of December 25, which for many of us—especially those who aren’t financially stable – can seriously increase stress levels.

So take heart in the science that concludes too many toys can actually make your children less happy. Research showed that children whose parents invest more energy with them, and had less toys, were more social, creative and better at school.

Therefore, instead of feeling pressured to buy your children lots of toys this Christmas, give them your time and attention. You’ll all appreciate it!

Pay attention to your mental health and wellbeing

The importance of paying extra attention to our mental wellbeing this holiday season is being acknowledged by leading medical professionals. Canada’s top doctor, Theresa Tam, said “I encourage you to take care of your mental health and wellness, including reaching out to a supportive friend or family member to talk about how you are feeling and to seek out available resources.”

“Keep an eye on neighbours who may not be able to see their loved ones or maybe reach out to someone who you know is alone or struggling over the festive season – even if it is just to say ‘Hi’. You could make a huge difference to their day and can also make you feel a little better too. Sometimes the best thing we can do for our own wellbeing is to help cheer the spirits of others” observes Dr Ashley Weinberg, Senior Lecturer in Psychology.

We have previously blogged with our top tips for a stress-free celebration. These include watch your alcohol intake, take some quiet moments to be thankful and getting outside for some fresh air to help your mental wellbeing. You can read more ideas here to help with a merry, stress-free Christmas…

The best place to start reducing stress is to reconsider your ‘obligations’ and reassess the ‘roots’ of Christmas—the true meaning of the day—and what is most important for you and your family.

A message of hope

As Rev Dr Susan Brown, Convener of the Faith Impact Forum, said, “The Christmas message, even in a time of pandemic, is one that is principally about hope.”

“This coming Christmas could be seen as an opportunity to give everyone the perfect ‘excuse’ to reassess how we mark the celebrations.”

To promote a message of hope and light which is at the heart of Christmas, a “Share the Light” campaign has been launched. It encourages people to display a light in their windows on 21 December, and continue to light it until Christmas Day, “to celebrate and thank those who have been lights to us this year and support those who have suffered physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.”

Offering hope to those in need

My recent post about Thanksgiving mentioned the importance of cultivating gratitude, especially during times of crisis, and quoted the Ancient Greek storyteller Aesop: “No act of kindness, however small, is ever wasted.”

While this year will undoubtedly be different for Christmas, it seems that we’re still determined to make it special, as Good Housekeeping research reveals that this year has taught us a lesson about the value of showing kindness to others, with eight in 10 of their readers saying that they plan to donate to charity this year.

This is a very personal choice and in this time of pandemic we have seen people do whatever they can – such as the Wolverhampton’s binmen getting into the spirit of giving as they aim for a Christmas Number 1 single with their fun song ‘Boogie Round The Bins At Christmas’. You can download it here for just 99p with all proceeds to charity.

According to recent analysis, almost 120,000 children in the UK have been pushed into poverty because of the pandemic. So consider passing on some kindness to those who need it most, like a child who will be experiencing a bleak Christmas.

“Every year, charities and other organisations worldwide collect Christmas presents for children who might not otherwise receive anything. This year demand has dramatically increased—due to Covid-19,” The Guardian reported.

Check out Action for Children’s Secret Santa campaign, and Save the Children UK’s Save a Kid’s Christmas appeal, which supports families to get the things they need through this difficult time.

As Christmas is traditionally a time of giving, it’s the ideal opportunity to offer a gift of charity.

A time for coming together

For non-Christians, the festive season can still be full of meaning. The spirit of giving and coming together with family and friends has long been a central part of the season for people of other faiths. Food, fun, and Christmas cheer is hard to resist for many, and after the year we’ve had, many will be yearning for the smiles and warm embrace of family members.

Almost all major religious celebrations, such as the Muslim festival of Eid al-Fitr, the Jewish holy day of Passover, and the Diwali festival of lights, were heavily restricted this year due to Covid-19 containment measures.

As the Christmas period (from 23-27 December) in the UK will have containment measures relaxed to allow up to three different households to come together over the five days during the holiday period, then everyone from every faith can take advantage to celebrate a social, family reunion.

As Mhairi Bowe, Senior Lecturer in Psychology at Nottingham Trent University writes, “Coming together, even remotely or in more intimate groups, allows us to engage in activities relevant to our shared identities. Taking part in shared family and national traditions, such as those practised during religious celebrations, boosts our sense of shared identity, connection, and ultimately, wellbeing.”

Despite the relaxing of the Covid-19 measures, we still need to consider the risks to ourselves and others, particularly those who are vulnerable, such as elderly friends and relatives. If you don’t want to put anyone at risk, consider including a “Zoom Christmas” this year as part of your festivities.

Carry the spirit of Christmas with you into the New Year

As practising gratitude and passing on acts of kindness to others in need has so many wellbeing benefits, cultivating thankfulness is one of the important areas on which we should focus all year round.

Here are some more of our blogs about the positives of including gratefulness in our lives…

Let this holiday season be one of kindness – to ourselves, our families and our neighbours.

Best wishes to you and your family from all of us here at Raw Horizons.

May you have a joyful festive holiday season…


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