For those of us lucky enough to have family and friends around us, Christmas is a magical time of year; a time when work is forgotten, food is lovingly prepared and gifts of appreciation are given. It’s also a time when the weather outside doesn’t matter one bit, because everyone’s wrapped up warm and cosy beside the fire, nursing a mulled wine or glass of fizz as Christmas tunes play in the background.
But every year at precisely this time I can’t help but think of the thousands of people for whom Christmas is a miserable experience; those who have no one to care for them, no roof over their head and no food to eat. Being homeless is a dreadful thing at any time of year, but at Christmas in particular it must exacerbate the feelings of loneliness and sadness that come with being in such a terrible situation.
And it’s not just the homeless for whom Christmas is a testing time. Each year there are also thousands of people who are forced to endure the festive season after losing a loved one, or who are elderly, housebound and alone. There are thousands more still who are penniless, clinging onto the roof above their heads but unable to heat their homes or feed their children, let alone buy them expensive presents from Santa.
My purpose in mentioning all of the above is not to make those who are fortunate this Christmas feel guilty or sad, but rather to encourage them (myself included) to be grateful for what they have; to realise what a blessing it is to be healthy, happy and loved, and to spare a thought (or maybe more) for those who have comparatively little.