I'm always hopelessly optimistic when it comes to this time of year. I know it's dark and cold but I can't help remembering that it's only about three weeks until the shortest day and from then on it gets lighter all the way until mid-June! Of course, conversely, when it gets to June and despite the warmth and light, I find myself thinking how it's all downhill from that point on. The Chinese idea of Yin and Yang fits very well with that - in the middle of the lightest point you have the beginning of the dark and in the depths of darkness you have a spark of light.
Christmas began life as a pagan mid-winter festival where people would go out into the woods and bring back evergreen plants, like holly and ivy, in order to 'welcome the green' into their houses and also light candles to bring in the light during these darkest of days and longest of nights. It helped people to remember that Spring was on it's way and that a new year would soon be beginning.
We bring light into our lives at this time of year in so many ways - on our Christmas trees, in fairy lights and shiny baubles as well as sparkly jumpers. Nothing makes me happier than to be hurrying home on a dark, cold night than to see all the lights in people's windows making me think of warmth, friends and mulled wine!
Unfortunately, Christmas also seems to be a time for stress and over-consumption, in terms of buying gifts as well as food & drink. We have a set number of days to relax and those days are often filled with panicked shopping followed by enforced socialising (am thinking of office parties and difficult relatives). Our patients tell us of the long journeys and endless meals they have to undertake at this time of year in order to keep everyone happy and it can mean that they end up exhausted and burnt out. It seems like Christmas is both a holiday and not a holiday at the same time.
So, lessons I have learned from decades of Christmases are: keep warm; try and stay relaxed amongst the madness; don't think you need to buy more than one present per person; don't commit to anything you really don't want to do; take vitamin C & D during the dark months and enjoy the sparkle of the festive madness. Remember everything changes and, before we know it, we'll be back to our beautiful long, light evenings.