This year, I’ve struggled to feel Christmas in my head, much less my heart, which is not the usual 25 December mindset of this positivity-extolling massage therapist and Mrs Clause wanna-be.

Because every inch of retail and advertising space has been festooned in Yuletide gear since the end of September, I had become desensitised to the actual date; and so, whilst I ran around like a lunatic trying to get everything done, it crept up silently behind me like a thief – a rather apt analogy considering the amount of money we’re all now expected to spend for even a basic celebration. Moreso, the ever-growing precarious state of the world (take your pick – economically, environmentally, socially, politically etc.) has left quite a few people wondering what there is to make merry about and I was among them, jaded by the sheer information overload of bad news.
But then, in the quiet of the last hour of Christmas Eve, I was visited Scrooge-like by the ghost of Christmas past in the form of a link a dear friend provided in her most excellent literary blog (please see below).  The link was to Dylan Thomas’ “A Childhood’s Christmas in Wales”, and I listened to the 20-minute recitation in a room lit only by the twinkling of the tree lights and the glow of candles. I was willingly transported back to a simpler time when Christmases were white and full of sweets, home-cooked food, close communities and large, happy families. Reader, I loved it. Mr Thomas was able to recall the simplicity he had as a child that allowed him to truly live in the moment, which totally appealed to the massage therapist and mindfulness devotee in me. It was the perfect end to a wonderful night of rest and relaxation in front of the telly with my husband (and naturally accompanied by generous helpings of food and drink). I went to bed thanking God for the many blessings in my life that are always there, but usually go unnoticed in the hustle and bustle of my busy working life.
So, this morning I got up early and attended mass at Our Lady, Star of Sea in Greenwich, which is a local church that I have not been to in years and I was so very glad that I made the effort. The new parish priest has rejuvenated a small but perfectly-formed church with a new organ, a choir that can actually sing and the basic repairs it has needed for years. But, more importantly, he has filled it with the life and warmth of a truly spiritual personality. Interestingly, he was a Church of England (Protestant) vicar, who converted to Catholicism in his later years (an explanation he felt obliged to provide when, in his homily, he referred to his grandchildren!). It was a simple mass, celebrated without any fuss and the church was comfortably full. As I opened my throat to sing my first full carol of the season, my body tingled with the sheer joy of it. It was then that something incredible happened that took me completely by surprise – somewhere in my heart, a door opened and Christmas flooded in like warm light into a cold room and I had to fight back unexpected tears. Despite all the adverts extoling perfect decorations and expensive presents, I found Christmas quietly waiting for me in a small church with strangers shaking my hand with greetings of peace and goodwill. I’m not overtly religious and had not been to mass in a very long time but, once I silenced my mind, a truth rang out in my head that healed all the petty nicks and cuts inside me. Our real worth is not in material things but in each other and the way we choose to live the gift of life that has been given to us.
The wonderful Dave Allen used to close his show by saying “Good night and may your Gods go with you” and I think it a good way to end this humble, little blog. Happy Christmas, peace on earth and goodwill to all.

Karen’s Blog – Link to ‘A Child’s Christmas in Wales’

The Kneader