And so… my traditional Christmas Intermission, in which I post about something Christmassy and reflect on it. This year, Hope & Social playing What A Year in Otley Courthouse with a whole lot of other people with handbells. I post this every single year because I absolutely love it, and if you haven’t already seen it, I strongly recommend you watch it, partly because much of what follows won’t make sense to you otherwise, but also because it’s fabulous. Well worth six minutes of anyone’s time!
So (I mean, apart from the Christmas hats and the elf with a laser pointer, obviously), why is this particularly Christmassy? And the answer is, because it contains a lot of the things that make people happy – genuinely happy, not the fake neo-liberal happy that comes with mindless consumerism. Working together with others to accomplish something. Cooperation. Laughing. Being in the moment, concentrating in order to do something which is almost, but not quite beyond us. Being challenged, and meeting the challenge, together. And celebrating together when we succeed.
Look at the smiles on everyone’s faces as they get exactly the right notes at the right time. Look at the rapt concentration, and the growing sense of excitement as they realise they’re doing it, they’re making it work, and getting close to pulling it off. And, at the end, when they bring it home perfectly, exactly on the button, the cheers and joy, and then the spontaneous celebration as everyone raises their bells in the air and rings them triumphantly. Such a stupid simple thing, and yet it makes them all so happy. And it makes me happy, too – I love it, and it brings tears to my eyes every time.
For these are all the things we seek at Christmas. Being together. Singing and laughing. Celebrating. Belonging. My brother-in-law remarked this morning that one of the lovely things about Christmas is that it’s celebrated so widely around the world, everybody doing the same thing (more or less) at the same time (more or less). And yes, it is of course a Christian festival, but it’s also a non-Christian human mid-winter festival as well, a celebration of light and life in a time of darkness and cold, a celebration of community. So many people around the world come together at this time, whether they are Christians or not, in a spirit of love and togetherness and hope for the future.
As Hope & Social say, what a year it’s been, and not always in a good way. These have been some very bad times for us woolly liberals. And yet there is hope, in coming together, in the so many times that good people have stood up and said “No. This is not right. Not in our name”. In the numbers of people who are wanting to see more equality, more commonality, more sharing, more coming together and working for a truly global future. And as people are discovering, there is more happiness, more real Christmas joy, in working together to achieve something meaningful than in any “must-have” gift.
So, in that spirit, make mine a large one, and I’ll drink to a day and a year full of joy and meaning for all of us. Wherever you are, however you are spending it, and whoever you are spending it with, I wish you all a very happy Christmas and a peaceful and joyful New Year.