THE ART OF SURVIVING CHRISTMAS
As Christmas – and the inevitable mention of the silly season – rolls around again we start to see polar opposite images of the festive season emerge.
On one hand a picture of togetherness as a family, for others the pain of isolation.
There is a lot of space between these two images and Christmas often makes these spaces a little more obvious.
Blended families juggling time with kids, people edging towards their first Christmas without a loved one, people separated by distance, migration or just plain old family conflict can make the season of togetherness nothing more than a reminder of what’s not around.
Lifeline and other mental health charities all highlight the impact that Christmas can have on people’s anxiety and stress levels.
The challenges can force people to have to find new ways of coping.
Graham Long is the pastor of The Wayside Chapel in the inner city of Sydney. Graham regularly sends out messages to Wayside supporters – his Christmas message for 2010 that invited people to the Wayside Christmas Party read: “If you have no family or if you have family but wish that you didn’t…”. The invite stuck with me and this year I asked him some tips for surviving the season if your idea of Christmas doesn’t match those warm fuzzies we are all supposed to have.
Even Graham admitted to the “Oh shit, not again!” feeling when Christmas seems like it happens every three months. But that said, Graham thinks that Christmas can actually do us all a world of good, because throughout the year we all get caught up in the everyday.
“What you find is that Christmas forces people to stop. It forces us to see what’s in front of us and some of the wonder can actually rub off”, he said.
The Wayside Chapel Christmas Day Street Party is a gathering for people who don’t have support, or don’t like the support they have. Graham, in his laconic manner, suggests that people shouldn’t stay home and be miserable: “They should be miserable with us.”
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