The word celebration has been largely hijacked in our society by Christmas, New Year and birthdays. Throw in wedding anniversaries, new babies and the odd passed exam and that just about sums up our ideas of celebration.
But what if celebration were a more personal thing, something that any one of us can have on any day? This week's tip explores.
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'I think Christmas is about celebration and, come on, on the inside everyone wants to dance.'
'What are you doing for Christmas?' I asked a colleague the other day. He looked at me mockingly, 'Christmas?' he said. 'I have long stopped celebrating Christmas. I tell people that I'm going to stay at home and do nothing, and they just can't understand it. I always hated Christmas as a child, and I still do. I want nothing to do with it.'
My own childhood memories of Christmas are not good - the bitterness and rancour that was there every day between my parents would be present in distilled form on Christmas Day. We children would keep our heads down.
My mother would be full of resentment because she 'did everything' and my father 'did nothing', except get the drinks in, and 'he couldn't even get that right.' Presents were a special source of ammunition - my father never bought any, and my mother would use hers to make bitter points. Christmas dinner was a tense affair; breaths held, we sat there, desperately hoping that we would get through it without a row or a snide remark or, worst of all, icy silence. These memories are so strong that, despite many happy Christmases since, they still colour my feelings.
And yet, if I pause to reflect, I remember other parts of my childhood Christmases with delight. The bustle in town on Christmas Eve, the constant bumping into people you knew because everybody was there; the decorations and lights in the streets, the buying of presents, the familiar music in every shop, the excitement and anticipation. And then there were the carol concerts - the poetry of the Christmas readings, the singing of carols, the awe and stillness of being in church.
At home there was the Christmas tree with its decorations and lights, the carols from King's College my mother would always play on Christmas Eve, the glass balls she would hang on white branches and light up. There was the delicious weight of my stocking on Christmas morning and the excitement of discovering what was in it, even though it was more or less the same thing each year.
I told my colleague a little of this, and said that I'd decided to focus this year on the things I love about Christmas. 'Ah, he said, 'you've been sieving.'
The wonderful truth is that our hearts naturally find delight. For me, however sad and difficult my childhood Christmases, there was a young heart beating inside that could not be dampened, that held its own private celebrations.
'Think of the magic of that foot, comparatively small, upon which your whole weight rests. It's a miracle, and the dance is a celebration of that miracle.'
1. How are you feeling about Christmas this year? Upbeat and excited? Warm and happy? Hassled and frazzled? Cynical and pessimistic?
2. What are you mainly focussing on? Fun and conviviality, seeing people you love, presents and food, what's good on television? Or are you focussing more on what you have to do, who you have to spend time with, who will be missing this year, or how empty and commercial Christmas is?
3. Whatever your thoughts about Christmas, what private celebrations could you have this year? Biting into that first mince pie. Sitting up late to watch midnight mass. Giving that present you chose so carefully. Celebrating a difficult year, survived. The love of the people who are here this year. Blissful peace and quiet. Not going to work. Singing your favourite carols in the bath. Summoning up a precious memory. Watching a small child open a present.
Have yourself a merry little Christmas, let your heart be light.