‘Tis the Season to be Jolly

Regardless of the fact that I seem to find myself uncharacteristically un-festive this year, I do love Christmas. I love the season of giving and gratitude, love and reflection. I love spending time with loved ones and being grateful for our health and happiness, and the ability to spend time all together. But this year, I can’t help but notice that amidst the usual merriness and festivities, there have been two prominent topics in my social media feeds this week – people seemingly buying ‘too many’ gifts for their children and people working through the festive period. Both of these talking points seem to have attracted a mass of negativity, which has really made me think. What happened to the season of giving? There is so much griping and sniping going on that I almost forgot it was Christmas! (I said almost!). With a little more awareness and consideration of ourselves and others, I wonder if we could all feel a little brighter this holiday season?

I read an article recently about a woman who seemingly went ‘overboard’ with gifts for her kids, and was slated by people who labelled her ‘selfish’, ‘greedy’ and ‘disgusting’. This woman works full time, is not claiming benefits, started buying in the January sales, saved all year and didn’t go into debt in order to give her children a fantastic Christmas, yet people brand her a disgrace. It doesn’t make any sense to me. Do I think its unnecessary to buy 50,000 gifts for a kid who’s too young to understand? Probably, yes. But do I also think it’s fantastic that so many people are able to spend their hard-earned wages and spoil their kids in that way? Yes. And does it matter what I think and is it any of my business? Absolutely not. If that lady has chosen to spend her own money in this way, it’s nobody’s business but hers. Nobody knows her circumstances, and nobody should be making derogatory comments. Judging is one thing – people will always judge. But when judging is taken to the next level and becomes nasty comments and shaming others, that’s when it becomes a problem. Could we all not just stop sniping at others – regardless of how we feel ourselves, and understand that there is no need to be arguing with others, especially at Christmas?

Christmas can be extremely difficult for people, especially those with school-age children who are hyped up and so easily enamoured by the mass consumerism. I have seen notices being shared online asking more fortunate parents to tell their kids that they bought certain gifts, not Santa, due to some kids questioning whether Santa doesn’t care as much for them, because they didn’t get the gifts they wanted. I find this absolutely devastating. Sometimes peoples’ circumstances mean that a choice must be made, to attempt to celebrate Christmas with gifts, or to buy food and provide shelter for their families. And yet it doesn’t seem to be these people with so little, who are bickering in my news feed.

Some parents will buy hundreds of presents, because they can, and they will joyfully share their happiness because they can, and there’s nothing anybody can do to control that. I should note here that I do appreciate there’s a difference between people joyfully sharing snippets of their lives and people gloating to make others feel bad – I’m referring to those joyfully sharing here. Anybody gloating to those less fortunate, I think show enough about the type of person they are by doing so. If everybody was a little more mindful of what they share or comment on social media, of course the virtual world would be a better place. However, that’s not always the nature of people and it’s certainly not the nature of social media. It will never be possible to control what others post, and certainly not how (in)considerate or (un)mindful others are. It is only possible to control the way you react.

Which brings me to the other topic of this week, people working through the festive period. Emergency services, police, nurses, doctors, cleaners, care workers, shop workers, bar workers, hospitality workers, beauticians and every other man and his dog who are working, I salute you. I understand the feeling. From the age of 12 I’ve worked sometimes 2-3 jobs at a time, mixing it with school and university studies, too. I know how it feels to finish late at night on Christmas Eve and be back in early on Boxing Day, and that’s your festive break done for the year (though I was fortunate enough to never have had to work Christmas day!). Nowadays, Christmas is so precious because I finally do get time off work to spend with loved ones. I don’t know when I might have to work through the festive period again, so I’m enjoying this time that I’m lucky to have, whilst I can.  If you’re still working, I hope that customers are kind to you and your shifts go quickly. Know that I, personally, would not shop, eat out, beautify and whatever else, if it meant you could have some time off, because I really do understand the value of time off during this period. And before anyone reading this thinks that I’m another one of these ‘bragging’ on social media, I assure you I’m not. But I am grateful for it, I am celebrating it, and I’m not sorry for that. Your feelings and opinions are valid, as are mine, as are everybody else’s – we’re all entitled to them. But when those opinions are voiced in a negative way towards others, like I’ve witnessed this week, that’s when it becomes an issue.

If you choose to use social media to complain that you are working because it makes you feel that little bit better, I believe you should be able to do so in peace, without being attacked. Just like those who are choosing to use social media to celebrate their time off for the festive period should be able to, without being attacked. Again, people will always judge, but maybe if you’re judging, do it inwardly – or remove the offending person from your news feed, without engaging in a dispute and bringing them down too.

Christmas can hard enough for people without additional stress. If you’re struggling, I really hope you can find the strength to get through. I understand it can be an extremely difficult time, be it having nobody to spend the period with, wishing to spend it with people who can’t be here, having no time off work to celebrate, not having the money to spend on your loved ones or simply not being in good health. It can be a time of pain and sadness, solitude and negativity, which is not helped by incessant arguing online. I understand that people can feel angry, tired and irritable about things especially when they’re unhappy with some aspect of their own circumstances, but taking it out on somebody else on a public platform is never the answer and will inevitably only make you feel worse. If people are seemingly ‘boasting’ on social media about how many presents they’ve got their kids or how much time off work they have, let them. If people are complaining on social media about having to work, or even complaining about people sharing how much they have their kids, let them.  If somebody is annoying you with their posts, mute or remove them and move on. If you have an issue with what somebody posts, do something about it that makes things easier for you – but don’t complain at them and bring them down too. Just as we don’t expect people to not share good or bad news, accomplishments or complaints all year round, we shouldn’t expect people to do so during the festive period.

Be mindful of what others are going through, their wellbeing and their circumstances. Instead of arguing and sniping, try investing the energy into being grateful for what you do have, sparing a thought for those struggling, whether they’re posting on social media or not. Instead of telling people working to ‘suck it up’, or telling people who have it off ‘you should count yourself lucky, some of us have to work’, try being a bit more mindful for yourself and others, and what you do have, rather than focusing on negativity.

There’s a lot of people struggling, for whom how many gifts they got their kids or the fact that they’re working over Christmas is the least of their worries. There are people fighting battles and focusing on things where Christmas doesn’t even come into the mix. I think we could always be a lot kinder to each other, at Christmas but the rest of the year too. It’s a basic lesson in humanity, be kind – always! I hope that you, wherever you are reading this, have as wonderful and peaceful a period as possible.

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