From the Ed­i­tor’s Desk

An­ge­line Wil­cox

Evergreen - - Contents - AN­GE­LINE WIL­COX

It al­ways strikes me that this is the time of year when, as Mother Na­ture slows down, the hu­man pop­u­la­tion speeds up. As tem­per­a­tures fall and days get shorter, much of the flora and fauna that sur­rounds us en­ters a pe­riod of peace­ful slum­ber, with trees rest­ing and many an­i­mals hi­ber­nat­ing. The sharp, bit­ing chill of win­ter is soft­ened by a com­fort­ing respite and a rest­ful calm per­vades the nat­u­ral world. Th­ese are the months to re­build and re­new be­fore spring’s re­vival. By con­trast, the rest of us are gear­ing our­selves up into a frenzy of ac­tiv­ity and there is an un­mis­tak­able sense of ur­gency in the air. It is as if ev­ery­one is about to em­bark upon some im­mense chal­lenge or feat of en­durance. As Christ­mas and New Year draw closer the may­hem gath­ers pace. But has the build- up to the fes­tiv­i­ties al­ways been so fraught and fran­tic? Wasn’t there once a time when the sea­son of “glad tid­ings” ar­rived in a gen­tler man­ner, mak­ing it more mag­i­cal and spe­cial?

To­day we seem to work by an en­tirely dif­fer­ent cal­en­dar, which has Christ­mas all wrapped up be­fore the au­tumn leaves have turned, let alone fallen. After the chil­dren have re­turned to school in Septem­ber, it creeps in, sub­tly at first, and then the big push be­gins. It is like a re­tail­ing, jin­gle­belled jug­ger­naut, be­decked with dec­o­ra­tions and echo­ing with car­ols as it ac­cel­er­ates rapidly, des­per­ate to reach its des­ti­na­tion by 25th De­cem­ber. Even if you make a de­ter­mined ef­fort to step out of its way and take a qui­eter route, you can’t avoid be­ing swept along by the tin­sel- strewn com­mo­tion it leaves in its wake.

This year I en­coun­tered a sur­pris­ing burst of ex­tra early sea­sonal ac­tiv­ity on a warm, sunny day in Au­gust, when I went into a high- street card shop and dis­cov­ered an en­tire aisle dis­play­ing Christ­mas cards. I have to ad­mit, it didn’t ex­actly fill me with good cheer! It was a case of too much, too soon.

Please don’t get me wrong, I am not “Bah, hum­bug!”, in­deed, I en­joy the fes­tiv­i­ties tremen­dously, but I feel that with all the com­mer­cial­i­sa­tion and the spi­ralling pres­sure it cre­ates, we are los­ing sight of the real mean­ing of what is, first and fore­most, a Chris­tian fes­ti­val.

There is a re­lent­less quest th­ese days for Christ­mas to be per­fect. Many peo­ple put them­selves un­der in­cred­i­ble strain by mis­tak­enly as­sum­ing this can be achieved by spend­ing large sums of money on lav­ish gifts and huge quan­ti­ties of food. While it is un­der­stand­able that we want it to be a won­der­ful oc­ca­sion, per­haps it is worth re­mem­ber­ing that so- called per­fec­tion does not bring us hap­pi­ness. Some­times the sim­plest cel­e­bra­tions pro­vide the most price­less and mean­ing­ful mem­o­ries. I al­ways think of the tod­dlers who, on Christ­mas Day, gain greater en­joy­ment from play­ing with the empty boxes and wrap­ping pa­per than their ex­pen­sive con­tents.

I re­alise, though, that just like per­fec­tion, sim­plic­ity can be dif­fi­cult to at­tain — espe­cially in an age that has be­come in­creas­ingly com­pli­cated. We are for­tu­nate to live in a priv­i­leged era when the vast ma­jor­ity have grown up never hav­ing to make do, or go without. Ma­te­ri­al­is­ti­cally, so­ci­ety is wealthy, but peo­ple’s val­ues seem poorer and their pri­or­i­ties are of­ten mis­judged. Fu­elled by clever ad­ver­tis­ing cam­paigns, con­sumerism can gen­er­ate the un­wel­come at­ti­tudes of greed and en­ti­tle­ment. “I want”, “I must have” and “I need” are fre­quently heard in daily con­ver­sa­tions. But how gen­uine are th­ese “needs”? And, once they are sat­is­fied with an end­less round of pur­chas­ing, do peo­ple feel more con­tented or ful­filled? I am sure that when we had fewer choices and a sim­pler life­style, peo­ple were hap­pier. Life was cer­tainly harder and folk had less, but so­ci­ety was char­ac­terised by re­spect, cour­tesy, pa­tience and sin­cer­ity. That true sense of good­will, which is at the heart of Christ­mas, was more ap­par­ent in ev­ery­day life.

Whilst be­ing thank­ful that our con­stantly chang­ing so­ci­ety has im­proved our lives enor­mously; notably with ad­vances in medicine, wel­fare and liv­ing stan­dards, there is still much to be gained from cher­ish­ing the sim­pler times, tra­di­tions and val­ues. That is why, amid the fes­tive hul­la­baloo, I like to share, cel­e­brate and be grate­ful for what I think are the real gifts of Christ­mas — and of life. They are of­ten taken for granted, but to me they are pre­cious and we are the richer for them — even though they cost noth­ing. First are kind­ness and con­sid­er­a­tion to­wards oth­ers. Then there are the joy, sup­port and strength that fam­ily and friends bring to our lives. Next come love, laugh­ter and good health. Fi­nally, there are faith and hope, be­cause they rep­re­sent what this glo­ri­ous time of year is all about. May you have a very merry Christ­mas and a happy New Year.

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