Today I have a guest post for you from OneMoreLightLB about the best thing about Christmas – helping people to find hope in a world that can feel hopeless.
Perhaps this is surprising for a mental health blogger – after all, Christmas is regularly cited as one of the most difficult times of the year for those who struggle with their mental health – but I truly love Christmas. I love it all. I love the cringey Christmas films, I love the festive flavoured everything, I love the cheesy Christmas songs and the festive cheer and the over-priced hot alcohol at overcrowded Christmas markets, as I fondly curse the planet in all its overpopulated Hell and wonder out loud if this doesn’t breach some kind of health and safety law.
Although the festive season certainly brings with it the pressures of financial worry, family drama and potential triggers for addictions and mental illness (Nicole Carman is doing a fantastic series about mental health over the holidays which I feel privileged to be part of), every year I throw myself into all things Christmas with childlike enthusiasm.
And whilst it might seem like naive consumerism at its finest, to me, Christmas is the best time of year. It’s the last unspoiled thing in this world, a constant year on year that brings with it an eager optimism and a pure hopefulness that is the closest thing to magic that we experience in the mundane. That hope is captured best in the naff films that you see on repeat every year, the calm assuredness that no matter how hectic things get or how bad they seem, it will all be alright in the end.
Admittedly, this is a sentiment borne from relative privilege, and I appreciate that. It’s important to acknowledge those that will spend their Christmas with nothing, who will spend it battling addiction, mental illness and other demons in a minefield of triggering circumstances. I want to stress that if you hate Christmas because of these that you aren’t alone, and I hope you find your way through the festive season this year and the next.
At Christmas more than any other time of year though, for everyone struggling, there are people willing to help. At Christmas we come together in a way that is unique to the season.
It’s this selflessness and willingness to help that makes me love Christmas, and it’s why my favourite festive film is It’s A Wonderful Life – I think it’s the one film that embodies Christmas perfectly.
We watch on as George Bailey’s life steadily falls apart around him, and we see him deal with problems that even 70 years later are still relatable to many of us.
From a young age, George has big hopes and dreams- he is sure in a way that only children can be that his life will mean something, and that he is bigger than his hometown of Bedford Falls. As an adult he continuously almost gets to live these dreams and at almost every turn, life gets in the way and he watches as other people get to live lives that are, in his eyes, more fulfilling than his own. In fact, despite regularly sacrificing his own dreams to help other people, all he seems to get in return is trouble. When he finds himself threatened with ruin, he stands at the edge of a bridge – one that is both literal and metaphorical – considering whether or not to jump to his certain death. It’s then that Clarence the angel saves him and shows him how much of an impact he has had on those around him, and he realises how important his life is. Who amongst us can’t relate to this to some extent? Who doesn’t want to see how they’ve impacted the world around them when cruel reality dampens the fire of childhood dreams and ideas, when we struggle with our mental health or the way our lives have gone?
In real life, George’s story would probably have gone a different way, but it’s Christmas and cruel reality is suspended; George returns home to find his friends and neighbours rallying around him to spare him from financial ruin and prison just in the nick of time. The group sing together, overjoyed that George is safe; his family gather around him, and a bell rings, signifying that Clarence the angel got his happy ending too, finally earning his wings. The evil Mr Potter is forgotten about, and he has failed to break his rival.
That is Christmas. It’s not perfect, it’s tumultuous, but at its heart it’s people coming together to offer hope. Whilst in real life there are no angels named Clarence that will swoop in at the right moment to save us, we can each be someone else’s Clarence. We can donate money, food, and time to those who need it. We can notice when people are struggling and try to show them kindness, to give them light in the darkness.
Christmas is the twilight of the year, and it brings with it the hope of a new start and the closure of all that has past. Underneath the capitalist hellscape, Christmas remains to me a time of reflection, giving, charity, togetherness and hope. In that sense, I wish it could be Christmas all year round.
Thank you so much Lisa for sharing this post with me – I love hearing about other people’s reasons for loving Christmas. What are some of your reasons?