Open Letter: The Meaning of Christmas

I WONDER how many of you enjoyed your Christmas Dinner, sitting around the family table with an abundance of festive fare, surrounded by the trappings of the season, brightly wrapped in layers of sleigh riding Santas and rocking robins.

Our Christmases come in all sorts of shapes and sizes as we see out our traditions from year-to-year, and make new ones as our families extend over time.

At a time of year when happiness seems mandatory, it is easy to sideline those who are marginalised by society, who are struggling to find their place in the cycle of grief and loss, who battle issues around anxiety, depression and mental health, and who live each day courageously with disabilities both seen and unseen.

Aloneness is a growing concern in the world today, and you don't have to leave your street in Milford Haven to experience it. For many years, I have had the propensity to bear the burden of anxiety and depression, and I entered this season of goodwill with my own circumstances weighing heavily on my heart.

All the hurt and pain, the sadness, the petty jealousies, the fears and the anger overwhelmed me and I had to stop and take stock of the direction my life was spiralling in, because I too felt marginalised.

I decided to push through my circumstances and reach out through the work I do as a carer and talking therapist, and I elected to work out in the community. Christmas can heighten issues around loss as we struggle to find a sense of belonging, but if we can connect with people on a basic human level, it is possible to achieve a broader perspective on our own lives as well as those of others.

It was a privilege for me to go into the homes of people who present with many different needs and spend part of my Christmas attending to them.

As I gave so I received, enabling a deeper respect to be nurtured and grown. At the end of my shift, I walked into Christmas Together at Pill Social Centre and offered my services there.

The event was redolent of all our Christmases as the hall rang out with laughter, goodwill, feasting and merriment.

To thank those who gave up Christmas Eve to prepare and cook the food, and Christmas Day to deck the hall, collect people so they could attend the event, serve the meals, return people to their homes, then clear up after it didn't feel adequate: they are due our utmost respect for their selflessness and commitment to serving others, making Christmas inclusive by welcoming all who set foot through the door.

As I left, I allowed my feelings of hopelessness to fall from my shoulders because I'd had the privilege of sharing my Christmas with those who, regardless of their circumstances, were able to share theirs with me, and my Christmas was complete.

Thank you: you have my respect.


Community Carer and Talking Therapist

Milford Haven