"STRONGER TOGETHER" is a weekly column where Tanya explores key issues. This week Tanya discusses her unfamiliar feelings of being disenchanted, disillusioned, and even disappointed with Christmas, and how a small reminder of the importance of showing kindness to others, reignited her festive spirits.
By IMPACT Community Services Managing Director Tanya O'Shea
Surprisingly, I am feeling a little Grinchy for this time of year. This is a new sensation for me, usually the first to get swept up in the spirit and fun that coincides with end of year festivities, advent calendars and the glitter of fairy lights as they dance in trees and sparkle on balconies and roof tops. Instead, my usual yuletide enthusiasm has been replaced with ‘dis’ words, unfamiliar feelings of being disenchanted, disillusioned, and even disappointed. The promise of joy, love, connection, and peace that usually accompanies this time of year seems to have dissolved within me and completely lost its magic.
Curious. So completely out of character. And yet, after some reflection, the reasons for my Christmas apathy are probably not all that surprising.
Initially, I put it down to fatigue. 2023 has been a big one, lots of challenges and opportunities, along with some struggles that have left me a little winded. The reality when you get the wind knocked out of you is that you don’t always allow adequate time to recover. Instead, you jump up and get straight back into the ring, failing to deal with any lingering feelings of pain and discomfort. Even though my emotional load has been accumulating over the last 12 months, I am confident that this isn’t the only thing that has started to dim the spark of what used to be my Christmas spirit.
So, if this isn’t the cause, what could it be?
After some soul searching what I discovered was that the real reason Christmas felt out of step this year was less about me and more about the event. The promises, rituals and traditions associated with the festive season seemed to be losing their specialness. More than that, they seemed to be losing their meaningfulness.
The lead up to Christmas now starts as early as August in some retailers, with ‘Christmas creep’ seeking to take advantage of those willing to overindulge as they aim to bring joy to others. This type of joy is manufactured through the promise of creating a ‘proper Christmas experience’ for loved ones. While it is not the gamechanger that clever advertisers will want us to believe, it can create an instant dopamine hit as we anticipate the joy that others will experience through our generous gift giving. I completely get it - we could all use a few more of those precious dopamine hits at the moment.
So perhaps it is just me, and given that Christmas is almost here, it is me that needs a change of perspective. Unfortunately, the reality of personal experience and challenge can sometimes derail my best intentions. One less at our dinner table this year is a painful reminder of the loss and grief that my family lives with. The number of people experiencing loneliness, homelessness and violence is on the rise. Working in this space, I am continually reminded that the services that we provide are vital, yet they cannot keep up with the demand and level of need within our community.
But there is hope, and recently I was buoyed after watching the 2-minute Christmas advertisement for Charlie's Bar, Enniskillen (search for it on YouTube or copy the link at the end of this article). The clip reminded me of the importance of showing kindness to others, because the reality is that you never really know what is going on behind the scenes for someone else. It could be a stranger, a neighbour, a friend, or a family member. In the video, an elderly man is laying flowers on a grave, and passes through the streets without acknowledgement from anyone around him. Until he sits in Charlie’s Bar in Enniskillen and orders himself a beer.
I won’t spoil the ending as I want you to watch the video, but I will tell you that this video flicked a switch within me. It reminded me of the true meaning of Christmas, and the power that lies within each of us to show kindness and hope to others.