Christmas, Bah Humbug and me by Susan Mac Nicol
My family will tell you I’ve always loved Christmas. The magic, the sparkling lights, the sense of festivity in the air, the trimming of the tree, the buying and wrapping of presents, and the decoration of the living room to reflect a true, old world family Christmas atmosphere. I have to confess right now that as I’m not a bit religious, Christmas has no significance for me that way. For me, it was more about the family gathering together, the searching for that perfect present, not expensive, but desired. That might sound shallow but that’s what Christmas meant to me. Giving someone something they really wanted, after listening to them mention it during the year slyly, hoping someone was listening. I held those murmured hints close to my chest and hoped to surprise loved ones when I finally produced what they wanted. It wasn’t about receiving; it was about giving which to me is what Christmas is all about anyway.
It’s true. I did use to love Christmas. Then I went though some really tough times, finance, self-confidence and morale wise and one Christmas was just crappy because I couldn’t afford to give anything anymore. No more wonderful, thoughtful presents, no exciting excursions to London to marvel at the Christmas lights and visit colourful, enticing shops filled with Christmas goodies I now couldn’t buy. My love for Christmas fell flat like a left over soda and I became that person. That Bah Humbug, Scrooge-like woman who didn’t want anything more to do with it.
For the past few years this was my life. Then I started working in London in 2014, and couldn’t help but be exposed to the festive season. I worked in the West End and this place, like most of the city, comes alive at Christmas. It’s hard to be jaded and hardened when you’re faced with strings of beautiful, lavish lights, bell ringing Santas, musicians playing Christmas music on the pavements, and endless streams of people smiling and wishing you Merry Christmas. It’s tough to ignore bag pipe playing men in kilts, playing carols and wishing people well.
I started to take photographs of the streets as I walked the half a mile to the tube station. I’ve always been attracted to sparkly things, like a magpie so my soul became a little brighter with each street I passed that promised me bright, shiny things. Slowly, the ice around my heart melted and I became aware that life had changed for me and I could start giving again. For me, this means a lot. I’m a giver, I can’t refute that little morsel of inner awareness. It’s both the bane and the joy of my existence. I like to make people happy. It also means I have a tough time saying no to people.
I used to take the homeless guy a coffee every morning as he slept in his tent; I offered another one my coat one time. He wouldn’t take it, saying I was a ‘woman’ and a man just couldn’t do that. He had no shoes, no jersey and still he wouldn’t take my coat. I would have frozen for just a few minutes before I got to work. He could have frozen to death. But you cannot force a proud man to do something he doesn’t want to do, homeless or not. They have their dignity and their pride.
It kind of made me re-evaluate my priorities. Life is for living, so if giving makes me happy, I need to do it. You create your own happiness in this world. This Christmas, I’m getting more into the spirit of things. I think I might even have a tree, something I haven’t had for many years. I might even splurge on some festive Yankee candles and risqué tree decorations. Gay mermen perhaps?
The point is – it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas.
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