I’m feeling weary this afternoon after getting up at 8.30am – having only slept for 3.5 hours. I jumped into bed at 5.00am after processing more data for my thesis. I haven’t had a proper sleep for ages as sleeping at the wee hours of the morning has become the norm for me.
I came in to work today to do some administrative tasks and by 2.00pm, fatigue had set in. I decided to take a break and took the tram to Rundle Mall – just to get myself a cup of Cibocino (caffè latte with hazelnut paste) and some french macarons from Woolworth’s. Stopping at the Rundle Mall Station, I was greeted by passengers who were keen to leave the city and away from mad shoppers. Two ladies behind me, perhaps already had a bit of Christmas ‘cheer’ during lunch, played a silly game of shouting out German-sounding words – and the best that they could come up with was “David Hasselhof” and “Budweiser”, over and over again.
A brass band was proudly playing “Joy to the World” with words that should warm everyone’s heart, “Joy to the world, the Lord is come! Let earth receive her King! Let every heart prepare Him room. And Heaven and nature sing, and Heaven and nature sing, And Heaven, and Heaven and nature sing!” Alas, there was no joy when I looked around to see fellow passers-by. I could only see exasperated, stressed look on everyone’s faces. Some were carrying a crumpled piece of paper, probably a list of forgotten gifts to buy at the very last minute. If only I could hear people’s thoughts, I would probably hear a lot of grumbling, moaning and grumpiness – rather than the lyrics to any Christmas carols.
Christmas has truly been robbed out of its essence and turned into a buying festival, when people are compelled to buy presents for those they don’t actually like, which will end up piled in cupboards and store-rooms as evidence of the excess that Christmas brings every year. What is really the essence of Christmas though? It was after all, a Christianised pagan festival – and now it has come full-term into a modern-day “community-celebration” festival, without any reference to Christ, the nativity or the Christian faith. It has been watered down to “Happy Holidays” and “Season’s Greetings” with Santa proudly beaming down on us with his jolly commercial smile. it’s a sale and discount festival, a season of stress and quarrels, a period of gobbling and drinking, and people buying things way beyond their means.
Having experienced a period of financial difficulties has also given me an insight of how painful Christmas can be to those who are struggling to get by. How can you say no to your children who look at you with an innocent plead that “Santa” will bring them something fun this year? Even if you can convince them not to expect too much, we live in a society that has succumbed to a culture of excess and material pleasure. I am thankful that I grew up in a modest family, that I didn’t have to have new clothes for Christmas or New Year. That habit has continued to the present day – I don’t need to buy new Christmas ornaments or clothes, if my existing ones are still looking great. I am truly for those who do not know any better – that they equate Christmas to the necessity of having new things to buy. I’m also aware how painful Christmas can be to those who are estranged from their own family – a reminder of a life or a relationship that they could’ve had.
The faint voice of urging people to return to the heart of Christmas – that God so loved the world that He sent His only begotten Son to save us – is easily drowned by catchy Christmas tunes and the shouts of discounts and sales. I am no longer an idealistic and naïve person that one day people will return to the real meaning of Christmas, but I am quietly and confidently holding on to my realisation of Christmas.
It’s not about Kris Kringle nor the presents.
It goes beyond turkeys and office entertainments.
It’s definitely not about Santa Claus nor Rudolf the red-nose reindeer.
Nor about shiny trees or enjoying the beach while having a beer.
For me, it’s a period of contemplation before I end the year – whether I have grown as a person in the last twelve months, a chance to take stock of my life, be thankful for everything that I have and everyone who I love. It’s a preparation for the the new year, with thanksgiving that God loves me and never gives up on me – even though I stumble and fall time and time again.