This is my December column (apologies to anyone who’s already read it!)
I love Christmas. I love the decorations, the lights, the feeling in the air. I even love the heat, the cooking and the last minute rushing around. Christmas is my favourite time of year.
But this year, I have made a realisation that I’m not sure about.
Christmas is full of pretence. From the moment we understand anything at all about Christmas, we are told there is a fat man dressed in red who somehow gets around the world in one night, and, despite his large girth, manages to enter and exit our homes via a chimney, which we may or may not even have.
When we are little bit older we learn to pretend we love every single thing we unwrap, from new school shoes to underwear. We learn to pretend that when Uncle Barry makes a joke, it’s funny; we learn that we must pretend we enjoy our cheeks being pinched by Auntie Ethel; and that it’s okay to hear “My, you’ve grown!” twenty times from twenty separate relatives we don’t even really remember.
When we get a little older still, we keep up the pretence that the item under the red and green wrapping paper is exactly what we always wanted. We keep pretending that we want to see that family member and spend the whole day in their company.
We pretend that it’s okay to have five extra houseguests turn up on Christmas Eve. We pretend it’s okay that our favourite wine glasses all get broken and we pretend – maybe not too successfully – that the red wine stain on our newly laid carpet will come out with a professional clean.
The world over, people are pretending for the whole Christmas season. And I wonder if that’s a bad thing.
We do it, essentially, to avoid hurting people’s feelings and keeping the peace. We don’t want to be the ones who ruined Christmas, so we grit our teeth and pretend all is well.
Yet instead of wondering why we do it at Christmas, I wonder why we don’t do it all year round. The thing with pretending is this: the longer you do it, the more it becomes your reality.
Maybe if we pretended more often to appreciate family and enjoy being with them, we would soon find we don’t need to pretend any more. If we pretended more often to not care about our material possessions, like wine glasses and carpet, we might find our priorities changing. We just might find that our pretence turns into honesty and surely that can only be beneficial to us, our families, and our communities.
Maybe we can take a leaf out of the book of a certain baby born over 2000 years ago. Babies are nothing if not honest. And this particular baby was pretending to be nothing other than who He was.