Why you should be kind to yourself at Christmas

In 1897, the New York Sun published an editorial that sought to answer a letter from a young reader, eight-year-old Virginia O’Hanlon, who had written asking whether Santa Claus really existed. “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus,” editor Francis Church wrote in reply.

That letter and Church’s response have particular poignancy for me for two reasons. The first is that I love Christmas. The second is that my mother’s name was Virginia. She passed away in 2019, but she adored that story, and I suspect she imagined herself as Church’s young correspondent each time she re-told it to me.

Let yourself enjoy Christmas and feel the spirit, be kind to yourself, for you survived.Credit:AP

More than a century later, the approach to Christmas feels more encumbering than ever. Beneath the crackle of department store Christmas carols, there is a frenetic bustle in the heart of the city. But behind that, there is an unspoken anxiety in the hearts of those caught up in it.

As the old year fades away, the exhaustion is palpable. Perhaps our post-pandemic lives have not lived up to the promise of the so-called Roaring 20s. This year was to be a year of renewal and rediscovery. Travel was back. The world was back. So, what happened to that Greek beach holiday we said we’d take the moment the borders re-opened?

Maybe it was too much to ask: that our collective tensions and anxieties dissolve away like snowflakes on a New York, New Year morning. But the lived reality has been different. Big-city life feels fraught. Small-town life feels fraught too. There was flood and fire. The economy is rattled. Everything feels rattled.

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The key to unlocking it all, however, lies not in the world around us, but within ourselves. “Being the change you want to see” sounds like a self-help book cliché, but there is common sense behind the sentiment. Perhaps the first step towards changing the picture is changing our perspective of it.

For me, 2022 was complicated. Fantastically busy. I travelled. I enjoyed my post-pandemic bounce back. But it was also the year my father passed away. I had a spell in hospital. The great days were great, but the bad days were tough. And a few nights where, with frayed emotions, I simply cried myself to sleep.

But instead of melancholy, I would like to offer a prayer of hope and humility. Take a moment for yourself this Christmas. As the new year approaches, the fact that we’re still here, and able to find the joy in the chaos, is a gift in itself.


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