Week 2 of Advent Challenge

It’s the end of the second week of the Bible Society Advent Challenge. Here’s how I got on the last week:

Day 8: hold the door open for someone 

This was a pretty easy one, I don’t make habits of shutting doors in people’s faces anyway! Today I held the door open for my physiotherapist.

Day 9: make and give someone a homemade present 

I was actually doing this anyway for some people but I made extra so I could give to my chiropractor. I won’t post a photo though because it might ruin it for people who haven’t opened their’s yet!

Day 10: give your lose change to someone who needs it

I put some coins into a charity box at the end of a till. I think it was for a children’s charity.

Day 11: smile more

I was not having a good day and felt pretty rough so this one was more of a challenge than a usual day would be. That’s mostly why I picked that one from the options given to me that day. But I managed it!

Day 12: talk to someone you see often but don’t speak to

I don’t go out a lot by myself so I don’t tend to see many people who I don’t already talk to. But I did have a very brief conversation with our neighbour that day while she was going out to the car.

Day 13: call someone you’d normally speak to online 

I don’t talk to my dad online but I usually text rather than ring. So I rang him oh that day. 

Day 14: out chocolate through someone’s door. 

I’ve bought the chocolate, I just haven’t managed to get to the person’s house to put it through their door yet! 

The Other Side of Christmas

Christmas is a ‘complicated’ time for many. I had this conversation every year with trainee and new teachers, but as I’m not teaching this year, I’ll share my thoughts here!

Lots of vulnerable people hate christmas. The level of disclosures (when children report child protection issues, such as abuse) increases a lot in December. Children can become really unsettled and their behaviour changes. Some have christmas as a specific trigger for a memory, for others it’s because they can’t face 2 weeks at home out of school. The difference between Christmas holidays and other holidays is that it’s cold and dark, so going out safely becomes problematic, shops and community centres close so there aren’t safe places to go and people focus on their own families and needs at this time of year meaning some support networks vanish over the festive period. 

It’s not just children though. The elderly also face similar problems because their services might be reduced. People who don’t have families and live alone find that their social contact might change. Or someone might have a family but relationships might be strained so there might be anxiety about meeting up over the holidays. 

It can also be tricky for people who have lost relatives or friends in the year- their deaths seem more acute in a time where the emphasis is on family. New Year is all about resolutions and future plans and prospects but some people can’t think that far ahead because their futures depend on something else. But the season expects you to put your best happy expression on and act like everything’s ok. 

It doesn’t help that social media commands us to put up photos and statuses about the amazing times we’re having, how much we love our family and the wonderful presents we get. The more glittery proclamations of us going out and ‘getting in the festive mood’ is supposedly a reflection on how successful we are at encompassing the meaning of Christmas. 

But lots of people miss the point. Christmas is a time of reflection, not a time to prove to people that you’re an amazing family member because you’ve managed to see all 20 uncles and aunts and taken selfies with them and the presents you bought them. There shouldn’t be a couple of weeks of the year where you do ‘nice’ things for people, you should do it all year round and reflect about it more at Christmas. It’s not about parties and getting drunk. It’s a chance to take stock and be grateful for what we have and support our family and friends. If you don’t believe in the religious aspect of it, it makes it even more trivial- it really is ‘just another day’. 

Having felt terrible for a few Christmases now and on other ‘important’ days like our wedding, it kind of hits home that it is ‘just a day’. In fact, one Christmas Day I spent at my grandad’s bedside in intensive care talking about his impending death (he died 27th Dec). We had Christmas dinner but our thoughts quite clearly weren’t on the copious amounts of food we had. It was a rubbish Christmas Day by almost everyone’s standards but I wouldn’t change the time I had with him. Don’t get me wrong, I love the hype and festivities that come with Christmas, but the thing I look forward to more is thinking about why we have christmas and the religious story behind it, spending time with people who I care about and who care about me, and thinking about how I can maybe make other people smile. 

Lots of people say they think about others at this time of year but the reality is most people think about people who are less fortunate in the context of ‘at least I’m not like them’. I can’t help the pupils I used to teach now, but I am still trying to think about what other people might be experiencing and what I can do to help. 

Winter Fayres

I love festive fayres. Even if I don’t buy anything, I like the atmosphere, and they’re great for Christmas present ideas. I particularly like it when people sell things they’ve made themselves (rather than sellers buying things in and selling them on). 

I’ve been to 3 so far this year. The first one was at The Herbert Art Gallery in Coventry. My husband and his choir were singing Christmas songs at it so I went along to have a look at the Fayre and help hand out flyers. It wasn’t a huge Fayre but there were a lot of handmade things which I liked. 

The following day, we went with some friends to a Fayre at Stoneleigh just outside Coventry. This one was a lot bigger and had a few extra things like cooking demonstrations and activities for kids. 

We had a really good roast at Farmer’s Fayre which is also on site.

The third one was last weekend at Fargo Village in Coventry. Fargo has lots of independent boutique shops on site as it is, but their Winter Fayre also had a bit of a difference: instead of Black Friday sales, the vendors would donate some of their profit to charity rather than slashing the prices. 

Fargo have a few more festive things coming up so I’ll hopefully be able to check some of those out too!