Peace on Earth

Merry Christmas

from New Zealand

New Zealand’s Pohutukawa flower (the NZ Christmas Tree) Image credit: Sarang/Wikipedia.com

Christmas in New Zealand arrives right on time for a summer celebration.  While I see pictures of Christmas celebrations in the snow from around the world, that seems completely foreign to me.

We have the usual pine Christmas Tree in our homes, but the real tree of Christmas (and probably the most well-known symbol of New Zealand Christmas) is that which produces the flower above.  The Pohutukawa tree.  If there are plenty of the red flowers out in time for Christmas, we know that summer will be a good one. Most of these trees are found in the North Island, where I spent my childhood, so I have lots of good memories of them, although they’re not that common down here in the south.

I grew up having a hot Christmas dinner of roast turkey and ham, but really it always seems a little crazy considering the warm weather outside.  Now days, and today’s plans with my family, will be around the barbeque outside followed by pavlova and fresh berries for dessert.

So that’s my Christmas plans, but I have to admit that I’m not big on the whole Christmas theme.  The reason I think I struggle with it is this expectation that everyone will be on their best behaviour, and we are cheerfully ‘nice’ to people who during the rest of the year, we perhaps don’t want a bar of.  If only we could use Christmas to find peace in our world and in our families.

I wish for a Christmas that spells the end of war. 

I wish for a Christmas that spells the end of hate, and a return to loving our neighbours.

I wish for a Christmas that contains no crime.

I wish for a Christmas where we all stay safe from harm.

I wish for a Christmas of love, especially for those grieving as a result of crime and war.

I wish for a Christmas of peace.

There are no doubt millions of people in this world who wish for the same, regardless of any religious beliefs they may or may not have.  Wouldn’t it be great if we could take those individual wishes and turn them into both an individual, and global reality?

Santa Claus, presents and singing Christmas Carols are simply not what matters, in my mind.  What matters is working out what each of us, as individuals, can do today to turn this planet towards peace.

Image credit: FB/ONE HUMAN FAMILY

Image credit: FB/ONE HUMAN FAMILY

Two years ago my family celebrated Christmas with a new child, my niece L.  She was born about six weeks before Christmas.  It was to be our last Christmas with everyone there, as my father died suddenly four months later.  It was a stressful time for us as the earthquakes had started to hit Christchurch and while we were all together, it was a difficult time.

A baby in our midst lightened the mood and promised of good to come.  She bought hope.  We had no idea of what trauma we would go through in the months to come, how much we would lose, and how much pain there would be.   But somehow L’s presence in our family gathering offered us hope and joy.  And no doubt today, she will continue to provide that to me.

And that’s on my mind as I’ve picked out this music (complete with snowy scenes for those who need that to connect with Christmas).  The lyrics veer towards a Christian understanding of Christmas but I don’t think that needs to exclude anyone.  We can use Christmas to celebrate new life, regardless of our religious beliefs.  That’s what I’ll be doing anyway.

I wish you all peace, love and hope as you celebrate your Christmas.  Enjoy the young.  Take joy in their lives.  And most of all, find a way to be at peace with yourself, and with our fellow beings.

“Oh look, yet another Christmas TV special!  How touching to have the meaning of Christmas brought to us by cola, fast food, and beer…. Who’d have ever guessed that product consumption, popular entertainment, and spirituality would mix so harmoniously? ” 

―    Bill Watterson,    The Essential Calvin and Hobbes

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The Pohutukawa Tree, also know as The New Zealand Christmas Tree, because it flowers right on time for Christmas.

The Pohutukawa Tree, also know as The New Zealand Christmas Tree, because it flowers right on time for Christmas.
Image credit: Wikipedia.com

I realise I might be in the minority, but why should that stop me?

Why have we been ‘celebrating’ Christmas in November?

Christmas is not November, even if those of you who are American think it follows directly after Thanksgiving.  It doesn’t.  Christmas is not until December 25 (do you like how I wrote that the US way?), so let’s put all the decorations, trees, special music, gift-wrapped parcels and reindeers, and stress away for a few weeks.  They are surplus to requirements.  Really, they are.

And yes, I have a serious attitude problem when it comes to Christmas.  No apologies.  It’s just how it is.

We’re just into December now so I can almost live with a few of these merry things (although not in my house) but really… do we have to have a whole month of Christmas?

You can partially blame my brother for my aversion.  He’s a ‘Christmas 12 months a year’ kind of guy.  Gotta love him!  He’s perfectly ‘normal’ apart from that (he paid me to say that!) but he’s thinks it’s perfectly normal to have Christmas music on the radio all year round as well as have a decorated tree (and not a small one either) in his lounge all year.  You think I’m joking?  I’m not, although thankfully that little addiction got knocked out of him soon into his marriage.  It was ‘me or the Christmas tree’… and thankfully she won (and I love her for it to this day).

All that aside though, I admit I come into this time of year with complete dread.  It is all about stress.  Here’s some of the things that Christmas seems to be about:

Holidays

Kids

Family

Money

Food

Isn’t that enough?.  All those things put together spell molotov cocktail to me, and I hate it.

Holidays

At my end of the world, Christmas spells ‘the great New Zealand shut down’… of everything.  It is summer here now, and schools finish for the year in a couple of weeks, through until the end of January.  Everything shutting down is fine if you’re one of those ‘shutting down’ but my life just carries on.  I don’t have a holiday.  Some people choose to think that my life is one big holiday.  It’s not, but wouldn’t it be nice to take off for the beach for a few weeks?  I can’t actually remember the last time I did that.

Kids

Christmas is all about kids, and that’s great… for the kids, and maybe their parents.  For me, apart from a wide range of stuffed animals and vintage dolls, I don’t have kids so tend to go through the season feeling like a square peg in a round hole.  It’s not that I want to have kids (I written about that before), but I just don’t fit in a celebration that is about kids.

Family

I love my family… individually, and in small doses.  On mass, I’m not so keen.  Actually I have felt anti-family celebrations for as long as I can remember.  I thought for a while that it was just a teenage fad and I would grow out of it, but actually the older I get the worse I feel about such gatherings.

One thing is that there are general conversations about what we have ‘achieved’ since we last saw each other.  Plu-eese!  That’s all very nice if you have the typical type of achievements, but writing a blog about mental health recovery while supporting peers with mental illnesses just doesn’t seem to be up there with the big pay rises or the latest acquisitions, let alone what your off-spring have managed to achieve across the year.  I try not to measure myself against others, but it does seem that what I count as an achievement (like actually making to Christmas dinner and not suffering in bed for the day with fibro fog) just doesn’t seem to cut it.

I should say that my family aren’t great capitalists who only value monetary achievement, but still I just don’t think I belong.  Actually I would much rather me helping out at the local Christmas Dinner for the homeless.  That would suit me perfectly, but there were huge objections that last time I tried to suggest that’s what I was going to do.

My Dad (who died last year) used to be my ally in family gatherings.  For me, he made them bearable (although he was also the one that strongly objected to the homeless Christmas) and actually often the only reason I went was to keep him happy.  Now he’s gone and I struggle.  This year I am likely to be required to drive my mother to Christmas dinner.  Hmm.  That seems my role in the family now.

Money

Last week I went without groceries because I mis-calculated my budget, thanks to a few extra visits to the doctor, and didn’t have enough to pay my therapist for November.  Groceries were one thing I could be flexible on, and I got by, and the bill got paid.  But this time of year is simply horrendous in terms of money, and my stress levels are mounting already.

For some years now I have limited myself to buying presents for my nieces and nephews only.  There are only six of them but still…  So far I have bought presents for two of them, and I’m trying to work out what I can get away with for the others.  I am fortunate that some of my family understand this, but I think others struggle to understand the realities of living on the smell of an oily rag.

My only hope at this stage is that ‘the great New Zealand shut-down’ I mentioned applies to my therapist too.  He gets to have a holiday.  The only good thing about that is that I do not have to pay him while he has his holiday, and with some careful juggling and balancing I might just be able to pull through.  Please God!

Food

And if all that weren’t enough, anyone with a history of eating disorders will tell you that Christmas is a complete nightmare for us.  Everything revolves around food.  Whether it’s a Christmas barbeque on the beach, or a full turkey Christmas dinner with trimmings, there is no escaping the focus on food.

Let’s not forget the presents of food.  If you learn nothing from this post, and I accept that’s a possibility, please learn this.  Never give presents of food to a person with a history of eating disorders.  Never.  YOu thik it encourages us to eat?  It doesn’t.  It just worsens the nightmare battle in our heads to have to deal with these gifts.

So am I completely negative about Christmas?  Not really.  I can see other people love it.  I think it’s a love or hate thing, and I come down on the ‘hate’ side.  For those who enjoy it, I say go for it.  Just leave me out of it.  And do we really have to have a whole month of it?

To lighten things up, I’ll finish with what is probably my favourite of all ‘Christmas music’.

“Oh look, yet another Christmas TV special!  How touching to have the meaning of Christmas brought to us by cola, fast food, and beer…. Who’d have ever guessed that product consumption, popular entertainment, and spirituality would mix so harmoniously? ” 

―    Bill Watterson,    The Essential Calvin and Hobbes