Silent Night… Holy Night… Santa Claus is coming… to town…
December is here again and, with it, all the usual joys of Christmas… There is a lot of confusion and controversy in people’s minds over the meaning of Christmas, in our personal lives and in the world. Yet only a few, if any, are willing to give up the Christmas holiday feeling.
What is the real meaning of Christmas? Good question… is it the gifts under the tree, the lights in the windows, the cards in the mail, turkey dinners with family and friends, snow outside, stockings hanging by the fireplace, and shouts of “Merry Christmas” to those who pass us in the streets? I was just thinking, as I was writing, that unfortunately nobody shouts that anymore… as people pass by other people and they do not really seem to see them.
By December, most homes will also be decorated with Christmas trees, real or fake, unending streams of coloured lights and an array of all sorts of Christmas ornaments. A few years ago, in the UK, the British Post Office estimated handling over 100 million cards EACH DAY, in the three weeks before Christmas… but that has also changed. I have a feeling that presently the figures have decreased to quite depressing levels.
Is this really what Christmas is about? Presents, decorations, Christmas cards, greetings? Yes, but not only.
Christmas can be a season of great joy for many people, but, for many others Christmas is a time of sorrow. Many are lonely, away from their family and friends, or have no family at all. We should not forget that many are ill and suffering, like always, as the Christmas feeling does not miraculously heal them during Christmas time!
There are also those who do not have the money to buy presents for their children, those for whom turkey dinners may be only a wish. This has also changed… for the worse, much worse, in the difficult present times.
Happy sneezing with a Christmas tree
Your Christmas tree may be the reason for a most annoying Christmas’ season sneezing. Christmas trees can trigger itchy noses, scratchy eyes, and sneezing.
Symptoms may start to arise when the Christmas tree enters your home. And they only subside after the Christmas tree is taken away, although taking it down will usually bring on one last bout of sneezing and itching. It does not seem fair but… what is fair in life???
Tests done to the trees showed that they are a source of mould spores and air tests detected spores in the rooms where the trees were.
Decorating and taking off decorations can also trigger very itchy hands as a result of a contact allergy. Artificial Christmas trees are also “under investigation” as many are made from non-renewable resources, most often petroleum.
Poinsettia, a native Mexican ornamental plant, is a very popular decoration during the Christmas season. Natural rubber latex and poinsettia share some common allergen proteins. Hence, people with latex allergy may develop cross-reactivity with poinsettia so, for those… no Poinsettias this Christmas.
Too much of a good thing can be bad
Most people gain weight in the four-week Christmas period. Parties happen almost daily, sometimes more than once a day, so if you still want to fit into your party outfit for New Year’s Eve and keep your health… control your appetite and refuse a top-up before you have finished your drink. Alcohol not only stimulates the appetite but can also weaken your resolution not to over-indulge.
The greater the food choice on offer, the more calories we tend to consume as we, humans, tend to try to have all we can of anything we might possibly grab. Should we say “consuming” habits to the extreme?
Rather than trying a bit of everything, stick to a couple of smart choices. If you simply adore fatty gravy and crisp turkey skin, by all means, have some, it is Christmas after all, but do not have “a lot”.
Unfortunately several people die over the festive season due to all sorts of excesses.
What do you want from Christmas?
In many countries of the world, the celebration of Christmas on December 25th is a high point of the year. But why? Does it have any real meaning for us today? Is there a ‘real’ Christmas message? If in spite of ambivalent feelings you keep on celebrating the Christmas holiday, it must be because there is some sort of a hidden meaning… Magic?
Today, there are not many people that still consider the religious meaning of Christmas and most people will not go to a religious church meeting, even at Christmas. Christmas has become a busy race to spend money on presents, and get ready for the party Day. A visitor from another world would think that Christmas is a festival to the “gods of money and shopping”. Sorry I forgot the “eating gods”!
Even now when the world seems to be generally “bankrupt” the money spent has not diminished comparatively to the previous years.
Is it just this you want from Christmas?
Making sense of Christmas
Luckily there are still people that hope for more than presents at Christmas. It is like somehow returning to a time in childhood (or some other good time in the past), when life was simpler and made more sense, before the troubles of adult life arrived. Behind all the fun and decorations, there must be something more, some key to hope and happiness, a different way of viewing life.
We should look beyond the way Christmas is celebrated today, and keep this feeling going.
There is a real meaning behind the Christmas season that we all somehow feel even though our intellect does not fully comprehend what all the fuss is about. This season really seems to bring up the forgotten, well-hidden, childlike innocence in all of us. Cynicism gives way to celebration when you participate in the rituals of the season, like when decorating your home or wrapping presents in pretty paper and bows whilst listening to Christmas carols.
Christmas is not an exclusively Christian holiday, it is the festival of the human heart. The best gift you can give to yourself and the world this Christmas is the gift of love, understanding and compassion.
Best healthy Christmas wishes,
Dr. Maria Alice
Consultant in General and Family Medicine
Medical Director – Grupo Hospital Particular do Algarve