The silly season is well and truly upon us. The decorations are out – in the shops if not in our homes, the music is on, the presents are being bought and the excitement (or anxiety) is beginning to show itself. Yes it is that wonderful time again – Christmas! Whether you love or hate it you really can’t get away from it. Today was Black Friday and it was quite a sight on the news – people fighting for the bargains. I have to say I didn’t see anything like this at our local shops, in fact there were hardly any discounts to be seen. I saw someone say on Facebook that we should bring thanksgiving over from America and send black friday back to them – I agree. We could all do with being a bit more thankful at times.
Anyway back to the topic. In schools the silly season is certainly a time when routine seems to go out of the window. There’s so many changes to the usual order of business; all the additional lunches, tea with santa, nativities, carol services, bringing in cards and presents. For some children this can be an awfully difficult time. If they have had or are still experiencing a difficult home life for whatever reason then the added pressure of Christmas can put more strain on families. There are many statistics that tell us how Christmas can make an already stressful environment even more so…..Samaritans report a 28% increase in phone calls in January up to 14000 calls in the month, one third more incidents of domestic assault on Christmas day than the daily average, and many children have bad memories and experiences of Christmas more than good ones! ‘A study has shown that January 8th is the busiest day of the year for divorce lawyers when up to one in five couples will enquire about divorce after the pressures of Christmas. The enforced intimacy of Christmas, coupled with the start of a new year is thought to be the main trigger’. Reported in the Daily Telegraph 8 January 2007.
All the hype in the run up to Christmas, particularly in schools, can actually make vulnerable children even more stressed out then they would be usually. The change in routine creates anxiety for children who need the structure that they may not get at home. When we change our whole programmes in the way that we do in December children’s behaviour can reflect how mixed up their emotions and feelings might be. Our own adopted children went into care very soon after Christmas and whether they have cognitive memories of that I’m not sure but there are certainly remnants of the anxiety and stress they felt.
I do love the silly side to December as well though. I love the cheerfulness in people that it can bring out – the singing, the fun and a lightness of spirit that might not be there ordinarily. In our office we have had Christmas songs on for the last week and it really does change the atmosphere in a room. So what is really silly about the silly season? Well the amount of money people spend on presents is ridiculous. The Money Advice Service, in their 2014 Christmas spending survey, found that the average adult spends £530 on their festive celebrations which equates to a total spend of £26 billion on Christmas food and drink, gifts, decorations, cards etc. WOW £26 billion – now that’s silly. And most of the presents will not be used or appreciated I’m sure.
Another silliness I read was ‘A mince pie worth £3,000 was on display at a London shopping centre in Dec 2011. The pie was at the Mince Pie Manufactory, a mince pie workshop at the Exchange shopping centre. The pie had some very expensive ingredients including a platinum coin, platinum leaf and holy water from Lourdes. It took the creator of the pie Andrew Stellitano 1 week to create the pie’. Reported in: London Evening Standard, 17th November 2011. How mad is that? £3,000 for a mince pie!
And I’m sure we all have our own silly traditions and quirks about Christmas – whether we open presents before or after lunch, whether we have turkey or ham, whether we leave mince pies and milk for santa and his reindeers or tell the kids there is no santa – traditions are important. As a new family we have tried to make our own traditions as a family of five over the last few years. It is so important to have those times together that build memories and strengthen the claiming and belonging part of creating a family. I remember my childhood Christmases very fondly and hope our children will have the same fond memories of our times together when they grow up.
The silly season is a time to embrace some of the silliness, reflect on the not so silly sides and focus on family and friends. I hope for you all that this silly season will be fun, memorable and above all stress-free and happy.