This Christmas season

My daughter was curious after hearing a teacher say they have a different ‘theme and colour’ for Christmas every year. We don’t do this in our home, so the concept was entirely new to her and she wasn’t sure what it meant. Once I explained that it involved getting new decorations each year, she said, “So you don’t use the same ones each year? I don’t like that at all. Getting out the old Christmas decorations is like opening a box of memories every year.” Ah, yes, I’ve definitely passed on my sentimentality gene!

Memories are slippery things and we often need a prompt to set our minds off wandering the past, don’t we? When I was in England recently with my dad and sister, I heard so many stories I hadn’t heard before from my dad simply because there were other people prompting incidents and activities from his childhood or teenage years. And it was wonderful. One of my uncle’s in particular, having been in the Navy for a lot of his working life, has many, many stories and it just took a word or line of conversation to trigger his memory about a particular (usually hilarious!) thing that happened.

Memories are great because they remind us who we are and they remind us of those we’ve travelled life with. They are a two edged sword though, aren’t they? Some memories that are triggered bring a wave of sadness, of remorse, or of regret.

In light of the recent happenings in Europe and other countries where lives have been senselessly lost, this Christmas will be hard for so many people, with memories both intensely painful and achingly sweet.

And it will be hard for people we know, our neighbours and our friends who have been touched by loss and grief this year or years gone by. We need to remember that each person we meet has wounds; some that are fresh and real, some that have scarred and healed but are still very much felt.

Let’s treat each other with gentleness and kindness as we rush about cooking, cleaning, buying and wrapping presents. Let’s aim at having some empathy for those we come into contact with, remembering that a smile can hide a world of pain. And if you’re the one who is suffering loss at this time, if this Christmas is especially hard because of who won’t be there, treat yourself with kindness too. Give yourself the same space and understanding as you would a friend.

Each Christmas when we celebrate and spend time together, we’re not only making new memories, we’re consolidating the old ones and engendering a greater sense of fellowship as family and friends; a greater connection to each other as all being innately human.

This Christmas season, let’s be mindful of those whose memories are difficult to manage and help make some good memories for them in the midst of their pain.