Winnipeg Free Press - Section H - - FRONT PAGE -

FOR many Cana­di­ans and Amer­i­cans alike, one of the tra­di­tional folk songs dur­ing this fes­tive sea­son is the Twelve Days of Christ­mas.

Be­lieve it or not, this song has English/ French ori­gins and was first pub­lished in 1780. It’s known as a cu­mu­la­tive song, which means each verse builds on another. The song de­scribes a gift to be given by “my true love” on each of the 12 days dur­ing the Christ­mas sea­son.

The song is so catchy, once you hear the tune, it con­tin­ues to ring in your ears and it’s hard to stamp out.

For in­stance, I’ll bet you can hum along with me as I quote, “12 drum­mers drum­ming, 11 pipers pip­ing, 10 lords-a-leap­ing and nine ladies danc­ing.” The song con­tin­ues un­til the last verse and ends with “a par­tridge in a pear tree.”

It doesn’t mat­ter what sig­nif­i­cance th­ese tra­di­tional gifts had in years gone by be­cause I’ve cre­ated my own in­ter­pre­ta­tion I be­lieve cre­ates some mean­ing for to­day’s world.

In my view, the tra­di­tional chant cre­ates a won­der­ful sense of ac­tiv­ity, of celebration and ex­cite­ment that sug­gests the com­fort and value of hav­ing peo­ple around you dur­ing this fes­tive sea­son.

On the other hand, the last verse, which in­cludes the phrase, “a par­tridge in a pear tree” sug­gests, in my mind, each of us as in­di­vid­u­als should con­sider our­selves as a “gift”; a gift to fam­ily, friends and col­leagues. I’m not sug­gest­ing this means we in­dulge our­selves in ex­ag­ger­ated self-im­por­tance but in­stead, we need to rec­og­nize and ac­cept the value we bring to the re­la­tion­ships around us. We are im­por­tant. On the other hand, it sug­gests to me peo­ple need to look at life as a gift that has been given to our­selves.

So what does this mean over­all? What does it mean for a fes­tive sea­son such as Christ­mas? To me, it means en­joy­ing the ac­tiv­i­ties around you is very im­por­tant, but it is also very im­por­tant that you en­gage in self-care in or­der to pro­tect the life we live.

In other words, each in­di­vid­ual needs to take per­sonal re­spon­si­bil­ity to look af­ter them­selves; to find some quiet time among the noise and con­fu­sion cre­ated by the many ac­tiv­i­ties around you. What can you do dur­ing this Christ­mas sea­son to reach this goal? The fol­low­ing tips will help to cre­ate some ideas and al­ter­na­tives that will en­able you to find and ben­e­fit from some per­sonal time.

Shut out the work­place — It’s very hard to do, but first and fore­most, it’s im­por­tant you tune out and sep­a­rate from your work­place as much as you can dur­ing the hol­i­day sea­son. Start by leav­ing your phone/email de­vices some­where safe but in a place you won’t be check­ing ev­ery five min­utes. Set a spe­cific time when you do check and re­turn calls/emails but don’t let it in­vade your per­sonal time.

Visit mem­ory lane — Take out that old photo al­bum and re­view your fam­ily pic­tures. Pay at­ten­tion to the hol­i­day events and fo­cus on the smil­ing faces. Search the al­bum for rest­ful and peace­ful places where you re­laxed and en­joyed your­self. Go deep into mem­ory lane and visit with your grand­par­ents and other dis­tant rel­a­tives. Think about how life to­day is so much eas­ier than ear­lier times.

Delve into an old book — Ev­ery­one has an old favourite book that is beg­ging to be reread. Reread­ing gives you a new per­spec­tive, brings mem­o­ries back and takes you into a fan­tasy world that re­moves you from to­day’s has­sles. It’s re­lax­ing, yet in­for­ma­tive.

Read a new book — There are plenty of ti­tles and so the choice is yours. With Nel­son Man­dela’s pass­ing, per­haps pick up a bi­og­ra­phy. Surely you can learn from his sense of for­give­ness and grat­i­tude for life. Choose a sports hero or busi­ness leader whom you ad­mire and/or find a book that is pure fan­tasy.

Watch a movie — With movies avail­able via tech­nol­ogy th­ese days, you don’t have to stand in line and/or beg fam­ily mem­bers to ac­com­pany you. All you need is a quiet per­sonal space to view it your­self. There are plenty of ex­cel­lent and mean­ing­ful movies at this time of year — find one that suits you and keeps you in a pos­i­tive mood.

Visit a friend — While you may have plenty of fam­ily around you and need some per­sonal space, keep in mind there are many oth­ers, es­pe­cially se­niors, whose fam­ily and loved ones are no longer avail­able to them. They would wel­come your com­pany and con­ver­sa­tion. Reach­ing out and help­ing oth­ers is good for the soul and ben­e­fi­cial to ev­ery­one.

Reach out to those who are hurt­ing — If you think about it, you’ll be able to iden­tify some­one who has suf­fered a per­sonal tragedy at some point in the year. This might be death, ac­ci­dent or ill­ness. Th­ese in­di­vid­u­als are very self-ab­sorbed right now and hes­i­tate to get in­volved in fes­tive ac­tiv­i­ties; let’s face it, they don’t feel like it, but a per­sonal visit is al­ways wel­come and com­fort­ing.

Get ac­tive — Yes, it is very cold out, but there is still value in quiet per­sonal time out­doors even if it means go­ing for a short walk. If you are more am­bi­tious, rent some skis, skates or snow­shoes and find a nearby trail. Watch the world around you, ap­pre­ci­ate the birds and an­i­mals. Iden­tify all the dif­fer­ent tracks in the snow. Walk dur­ing sun­light and en­joy the won­der of our win­ter.

Spoil your­self — Pamper your­self, spoil your­self. Who says you have to get dressed im­me­di­ately at the be­gin­ning of the day? Who says you can’t sleep in or take an af­ter­noon nap? Play your favourite mu­sic, es­pe­cially the selec­tions that help you to re­lax. Ar­range a date with your loved one, just the two of you, and then go to a spa.

Look for re­lax­ing ac­tiv­i­ties — Pur­chase your­self a puz­zle, some­thing that can at­tract your at­ten­tion for a few hours per day and you can do in­de­pen­dently. This can cre­ate a break from all the con­fu­sion, and at the same time, cre­ate a great sense of ac­com­plish­ment when you are fin­ished. A puz­zle is some­thing you can share or do alone, but ei­ther way, it is fun and re­lax­ing.

The Twelve Days of Christ­mas chant is over 230 years old, which demon­strates tra­di­tions are long-last­ing, and as we see, they are still be­ing car­ried on to­day. So it’s time to make a change and add per­sonal self-care to be an im­por­tant part of our hol­i­day tra­di­tion.

Merry Christ­mas!

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