Was it ‘cancelled?’
Last year–2019 –it seemed like the world or at least larger part of it than before had begun to take the problem of climate change more seriously.
But, maybe not? Maybe the publicity given to Greta Thunberg was mere publicity? Journalistic hype based around the appeal of a story? Helped along, even, by a PR company? The story of a neurodivergent teenager and her solo mission to bring her message to the eyes and ears of the wider world: has great appeal. Whether that is the sad truth, a lot of people believed in her message. It chimed with a growing awareness by younger people that all is not perfect in this world of natural disasters, war, and terrorism.
And another sign of the times, Extinction Rebellion, disrupted town centres with lively demonstrations. They dressed up in scary costumes. They glued themselves to things. They were like a 21st century version of the Suffragettes. Several retired ladies from my art class travelled to London to take part, hoping that they might get arrested for the cause.
We even wondered if the uncertain future of our planet could be moving up the agenda of world leaders?
But significantly and sadly, (and remember, we’re thinking about whether Christmas was cancelled), scientists in relevant areas had already warned about a worldwide pestilence – indeed pandemics, not one but many. These would become very likely unless the world’s lifestyle changed. Back in January this year I noticed a very small article to one side of the BBC News website: a new virus had emerged in China. Immediately my mind presented me a memory: those warnings. I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised that world leaders and politicians had chosen to ignore the warnings rather than prepare for such a worldwide natural disaster? Even as crazy Australian wildfires, beginning in June 2019, were still raging – and continued until May 2020 – demonstrating again that something isn’t quite right on the planet?
At least one politician even tried, as the virus struck our island nation (we hadn’t been ready, so we hadn’t made sure to close borders) tried to suggest that the plague would be gone “by Christmas”. Possibly he was experimenting with the idea that if you say something won’t interfere with something else, it won’t? After all, nobody wants their traditional Christmas cancelled…
But can Christmas be cancelled? Applying logic, family visits, roast turkey, Christmas Specials, Christmas trees, carols (from King’s /the school/the parish church), jumpers, puddings, Christingles, cribs, cards, and presents – these can be cancelled. We’d miss them – or many of them – at least one or two of them… We might be glad to miss the jumpers, or the puddings or the Specials. We wouldn’t miss spending an evening writing the cards. We might or mightn’t miss seeing family members (some seem less see-able than others…) We’d miss the dream. We need it. We play it over in our minds. It’s perfect. It’s reassuring. It breaks up the dark, cold, winter. We’d even miss stress, frantic shopping, checking everything’s perfect, and the let-down when it’s not… Christmas, the annual family get-together, has become a must-have.
As expected pleasures were potentially ‘snatched away’, not doing things exactly as usual threw many of us into disappointment and confusion. The idea that it mightn’t, this year, be wise to do all the traditional things, including crowded travelling from one place to another, getting squashed together at the todders’ Crib Service, and all that shopping, wasn’t just anathema, it was devastation.
So, if family meet-up can’t happen as usual, is our investment only in acting out the traditions? What necessity have we bought into? We’ve learned to expect predictability, but for many species life is fragile and unpredictable, and for many people survival is fragile and unpredictable. Evolution suggests a solution: adaptation to surrounding circumstances. Survival, the emotional survival of Christmas as we know it, may mean giving up ‘as we know it’, and defying ‘cancelled’ by embracing our own creative solutions… This can prove tremendously positive, once accepted, since untied from the traditional must-haves we’re free to do something with December 25th which suits us far better.
What suits you? Given the weather, your circumstances, your tastes, chose something relaxing and restorative to do, to eat, to achieve… ‘Christmas’ is based on celebrating the birth of Christ, ‘the light (that) shines in the darkness and the darkness cannot overcome it.’ That is, the darkness of the present time. Neither will it be altered by not being celebrated in the traditional way, on the traditional day. Christmas itself can’t be ‘cancelled’ any more than our birth-days can be (even though 25/12 isn’t a known date, only a church tradition)!
We could say the devastation this year wasn’t about losing Christmas: it was fear about losing the traditions of celebrating on 25/12. Maybe we need to loosen their hold on us? We don’t need to abandon them: the fun and the family stuff – just to know that whenever and wherever, we can gather and celebrate, the day and the specific traditions are moveable or adaptable when necessary.
Maybe we need to make sure we don’t allow another pandemic to overtake us? Maybe we need to make more effort not to lose the planet? Because that would cancel everything…
Just a thought.
For a little Christmas story, go to the Hodge (Mari Howard) website, where you can read about Alice’s first carol service at https://hodgepublishing.co.uk/extract/the-labyrinth-year-christmas-carols-with-alice/
To read more about Alice and her family, try the books: Baby, Baby and The Labyrinth Year – find them at https://hodgepublishing.co.uk/books/