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A very varied Christmas

  • 17 December 2020
What does Christmas mean for you? What does it have in store? Preceding and in the midst of the annual celebration of life and hope that is Christmas, we will always have those, as H L Mencken noted, are obsessed with the ‘haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy’.

For me, like Dicken’s trio of spectral visitors, Christmas brings melancholia, merriment and memories. Last year it was estimated that one million Australians will be dealing with depression at Christmas time, as they grapple with ‘loneliness, grief, sadness, self-reflection, excessive spending, drinking and fear of socialising’. Like many of us, I can put my hand up as having been there and waded through that.

The year before, in 2018, research claimed one in four Australian adults ‘experienced anxiety, three million experienced depression and two million experienced social isolation when thinking back to last Christmas’. They doubled down with the claim that ‘for 7.6 million Australians, Christmas is the most stressful time of year and six million people spend more than they can afford during the festive season’.

Acknowledging the inherent dodgy methodology, and that it is designed to encourage philanthropic generosity, there were probably kernels of truth in the mix. Many of us equate Yuletide with misery.

But for God’s sake, we have just scraped through the worst year in living memory for many of us. Surely a bit of happiness and the odd Santa hat wouldn’t go astray. Christmas is a safe preserve for joy. As the PM would say, broad toothy smile in place, How good is surviving a pandemic?

In Marmion, Sir Walter Scott wrote: ‘Heap on more wood! The wind is chill; / But let it whistle as it will, / We'll keep our Christmas merry still.’ A third of Aussies declared in a national survey last year that they looked forward to ‘the mood and Christmas cheer’, and one in five of us were ‘most excited about the carols and Christmas message’.

'Christmas in Brisbane meant the smell of ozone, sharp peals of thunder, monsoonal downpours and dragged out days of backyard cricket, cold drinks and sunburn.'

Joy means not being flat chat. The big winner for 65 per cent of us was looking forward ‘to spending time with family and friends’; 46 per cent of us anticipated ‘the food and celebration’; and 23 per cent ‘can’t wait for some time off work or study’.

Flesh satiated, summer snooze granted, Christmas is also redolent with memories.

Last Christmas was beautiful