Nostalgia at Christmas and Learning from the Children….

Do you find it hard to let go of Christmas?

It’s that time again when we have the slight lull that follows the festivities of Christmas Day with all the celebrating, eating and family time, before gearing ourselves up for the onslaught of the New Year. It is one of the precious few times of the year when we have several days off in a row (at least in our house), forget which day it is, and where we have time for lay-ins and cooked breakfasts before a leisurely walk or perhaps a trawl through the sales.

I always struggle with this time of year; I don’t like giving up on Christmas. I cling on to the twinkling lights and the decorations for as long as possible. I inwardly cringe when I hear people saying they can’t wait to ‘get back to normal’, or that they have already taken their decorations down the day after Boxing Day. I don’t get it. It’s dark. WE need lights. WE need to keep the fun going as long as possible and enjoy the time of year that allows us to slow down.

Whilst saying all this, I appreciate Christmas isn’t an easy time for some. For those struggling with illness, financial problems, or loss, it can be hard to face all the Christmas festivities. There is something so poignant about this time of year; it’s as if the world around us has altered in readiness for the revered time, and in the midst of the hectic build up there is a certain heightening of emotion which can be hard to cope with at times. For me, this was my first Christmas without my beloved dad; we missed him hugely, and I’m sure we weren’t the only family struggling not to look at an empty chair at this time.

I consider myself to be fairly senior now and I look back down the years with more than a little nostalgia, especially at this time of year. Memories flood back from Christmas’s past and I am plunged into certain wistfulness. The seasons seem to be getting shorter and shorter with the space between them constantly shifting and moving on before we have had chance to enjoy the present. At our local garden centre, Santa had moved in in October and was back in the North Pole before we knew it. (Although the grotto was amazing). All that remains in the Christmas store now are a few sad and bedraggled decorations selling at knock down prices, whilst the summer barbecue equipment is coming back in through the door, along with the garden furniture and the patio heaters. I have never been able to work out who would buy these things in the still dark days of winter, but obviously some people do. Don’t get me wrong, I know we can’t cling on to Christmas for too long, but surely we can wait a few more weeks before calling time on everything festive.

I am sure now I will never be the Queen of England. I would put money on it. I’m not even remotely in line to the throne, although I must say, I can do quite a good royal wave, but if I WERE ever to be Queen, or Prime Minister (now there’s a thought) the first thing I would do would be to create a public holiday at the end of January. I have always thought that would be a very good idea. It wouldn’t be nearly so bad clearing up after Christmas if we knew there was another holiday on the horizon. Like a ‘Goodbye to Winter, Spring is on the horizon’ sort of holiday.

I don’t want to see chocolate creme eggs in the shops during the first weeks of January, and although I am a romantic, I’m not yet ready to see Valentine’s cards either.

You have probably deduced that I don’t bother with starting a new diet or a new project on January 1st. I will just try and stick to the healthy diet I have always tried to follow, not always successfully, but then we all fail from time to time. I will try and keep up my daily walks and do the odd bit of meditation, but I won’t be setting any rules that will be broken a few weeks down the line. Yet I think I need to view things a little differently. One thing I have noticed this season whilst watching and listening to my grandchildren is this: children love Christmas and everything about it. They are able to plunge in to all the happy things about this time with more or less total abandon. They are (usually) happy to wear a tea towel on their heads and pose as a shepherd, or as an assistant alien as in our grandson’s case, and wave happily to an adoring audience. They think it is quite normal to listen out for distant bells and gaze expectantly at the sky on Christmas Eve. They are more than happy to get up in the early hours of Christmas Day and jump up and down with excitement. But as Christmas draws to a close they move on to new days and new experiences, running headlong into the New Year and all the new experiences it will bring.

That seems to me to be the best way to go about things.

So as this year draws to a close I wish you all good things – a chance to walk in frosty lanes when all the world is quiet, stillness when you need it, and joy and laughter too. The love of family and the familiarity and warmth that lasting friendships bring. And for all of us, I wish us the gift of peace.

Ps. Perhaps keep the fairy lights going for another week…….

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Hearts and flowers today …obviously

I’m getting on a bit now. Valentine’s Day is now just a pleasant diversion that cheers me up on a winter’s day. Not that I’m not a romantic, but as the years roll on it’s the everyday togetherness that is important when you have been married a long time; the comfort of knowing that (if you are lucky) your partner is there for you no matter what, and your heart won’t sink to your boots if a bundle of mysterious cards do not find their way through your letter box.

It’s easy to say that Valentine’s Day is just a commercial fest; its true that flowers increase dramatically in price as the day approaches and that is a shame, but there is no doubt seeing all the lovely containers of blooms spilling out over the pavement outside the florist’s shop is very uplifting to see, and yesterday my local mini-supermarket was awash with glorious bunches of red roses which should have dropped a hint to the most preoccupied of lovers.

As with all these celebratory days, it is difficult for some. Not everyone is in a happy relationship, some people are alone; maybe they have lost a loved one; putting on a brave face on such a day can be hard. I can remember as a teenager being mortified that no one had bothered to send me a card; even worse, I remember the feeling of elation that quickly changed to heart wrenching disappointment when the card I thought was from someone I yearned to have as a boyfriend was really from someone else. If only we could reach back down the years and tell our young selves that the future would be bright and for a lot of us the right person was out there!

Although days of celebration like this will always be with us and on the whole, we enjoy them, it’s really day to day living that matters. Small romantic gestures every day of the year are what makes the world go round. It’s something that is easy to forget, and yet it is so important. Who could fail to feel better after coming home to a lovingly prepared dinner and some lighted candles, or seeing a household job completed that had been niggling away at you for ages? And a bunch of flowers or some chocolates are welcome any day of the year in my house!

It’s not just the romantic side of life that’s important, it’s showing we care for friends and family too; noticing when someone is down and taking time out for them; babysitting and baking, sharing time together, all these help to keep our world turning.

The following poem isn’t really about Valentine’s Day itself, it is more about friendship. Friendship takes many forms. When we love someone and have loved someone for many years, friendship above all, is what gets us through the days and nights.

Whether you are in love, missing a loved one, looking for love or just need a friend, this poem is for you.

Blessings to you, and Happy Valentine’s Day!

I was standing by the window

Staring out to space

Wondering if I could find a friend

To stop me feeling out of place.

Then out of nowhere you appeared

With your jolly point of view,

Taking life so lightly

That I believed in you.

I don’t know where you came from;

Were you just out of sight

Like the sun, waiting behind the clouds

To dazzle me with light?

You seemed to gather my sadness,

And discard it like a cloak

I’d never need to wear again,

With one uplifting stroke.

You gave me help to find my way

To somewhere I belong,

Gave me your time, just like a gift

I’d waited for so long.

I don’t know where you came from

But you changed my point of view;

Your heart is surely golden

And I believe in you.

img_0113(C) Lyn Halvorsen