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2012-12 Christmas is for children

James column for the Sligo Weekender

 
With every passing year I have undoubtedly become more of a Christmas `Scrooge'.
And with an already absurdly extended Christmas shopping season, sometimes stretching back as far as August, it means that this `Scrooge' ends up straddling the seasons. Yet I don't see myself as an altogether cold-hearted, tight-fisted, greedy, grumpy miser, who loathes children and shuns happiness, and I'm hoping I'm not viewed in that light by those who know me. But yes it is that well-documented over-commercialisation of Christmas which continually drags out my inner grouch, pretty much turning me right off the newly-prolonged festive season.

The `spirit of giving' appears to have been replaced by the `spirit of spending'. In order to avoid the Christmas rush shoppers shop for up to five months previously, all for one day. And when that day is over the sales descend upon us, and the vicious circle starts all over again. Bah! Humbug.

I have a real problem with the word `Xmas', as that `X' seems to have replaced the name the entire season ought to be centred around. Don't get me wrong  my faith has all but vanished, at times I truly struggle to see the `Christ' in `Christianity', and it's been a long long time since I've witnessed the `Christ' in `Christmas'. It's as though the commercial world has stolen Christmas from the Christian Church, and won. Perhaps it ought to be renamed "The Nativity", as in Spain's "Navidad" or Italy's "Natale", and at least then people might focus on the humble birth of a child in a stable, rather than become consumed by crude commercial covetousness. As the Church continues to dramatically lose its relevance, Christianity's hold on Christmas also seems to be slipping.

It has long been said that Christmas is for children, but that surely doesn't mean we ought to spoil already privileged children. Privileged children have birthdays, holidays, weekends and much more, and so son't need to be further spoiled and pampered at Christmas. In any case, endless extravagant presents often only result in ill-tempered obnoxious and at times strangely dissatisifed brats ; to say nothing of the harsh financial pressures laden on less well-off parents at Christmastime, particularly in recessed times.

And yet surely every child in the world deserves to experience the magic of Christmas. But rather than spoiling our fortunate children further, we ought to look for ways to reach out to the needy and hurting children in an effort to brighten their Christmases, and then widening our field of vision to encompass all the vulnerable in society  the sick, the elderly, the homeless, and of course animals  and not only at Christmas but right throughout the year.
In order to relocate the true meaning of Christmas, and to put the `Christ' back in Christmas, we ought to be supporting the Simon Community, the St Vincent de Paul, and abroad Trócaire, Bóthar, and Sligo's own "Kenya Build" by paying off food-bills or sponsoring a child, thereby giving real hope for the future. After all, the Number 1 symbol of the season Santa Claus stemmed from St Nicholas, the patron saint of children, who famously donated gifts to those children most in need.
 
"Operation Christmas Child" sends shoeboxes filled with goodies to needy kids abroad. "Make-a-wish-foundation", "Jack and Jill Foundation", "Barnardos" and many others are all worthy contenders for cash at Christmas.

And on our own doorstep we have a little 8 year-old guy called Adam, eldest child of Noel and Valerie Kennedy, who through no fault of his own was born with Achondroplasia (or `dwarfism'). Adam has been in and out of Temple Street, Crumlin and Sligo General throughout his short life. Since birth Adam has suffered severe hearing problems, which have led to a learning delay. At 6 Adam had a massive seizure and ended up on life-support. At the moment Adam's future appears brighter. The `Adam Kennedy Trust' was set up to raise funds for his ongoing challenging medical, educational and care needs. Check out Adam on Facebook. On St. Stephen's Day 2012 the third annual swim for Adam will take place in Aughris at 12 noon (assemble at the Beach Bar at 11.30am). Download a sponsor-card on Adam's Facebook page ("Adam Kennedy Trust"), or through the "Weekender". Yes the sea is bleedin freezin, but it's for a great cause!