Hello, and I wonder how many of you now have that 80s song of the same name as an earworm?!
This week I’ve been thinking about how close we are to the end of the year: less than 5 weeks and we can say goodbye to 2020, with all its topsy-turvy strangeness, and look towards 2021 with a little hope. Yesterday was the First Sunday of Advent for Christians, when candles start being lit to welcome Jesus at Christmas, one extra candle each week until we have four, gently shining as a welcome in our homes and our hearts. It’s no coincidence that mid-winter festivals of light have been with us since ancient times: fires and candles help to keep us hopeful and sane throughout the dark periods of the year. The word ‘advent’ is derived from the Latin ‘adventus’, and translated from the Greek word ‘parousia’, both meaning ‘coming’. The origins of this ‘coming’ are different from the now-traditional 4-week period of anticipation leading up to Christmas, but we could also use this time to think generally about this most unusual year drawing to a close and the new one yet to arrive. Whether you are religious, spiritual, or not, a little reflection and forethought could be useful for us all, without getting mired too far into the past or the future.
I’m sure many of you are thinking about gifts for the people you love, if not already in the midst of buying. In this year of massive changes, could you think differently? Buy locally, from small, independent makers and artists, to support your local community and economy? Just A Card is a national movement supporting and promoting every kind of small and individual creative venture you could think of – take a look at their Instagram account for some inspiration. Perhaps, instead of buying new objects, you’re more inclined to support charities and similar organisations, who need our support more than ever this year, in the absence of their venues/shops/collecting tins being available. There’s still chance to sponsor animal charities, dedicate a tree, support food banks and local charities, give a little of yourself and your time. Maybe this year is the right time to look outwards a little more, to open our eyes to see who may be a little more in need than ourselves this year.
That said, perhaps the countdown to the end of this year is also a time to think about more than Christmas: maybe the time we’ve had, especially during the spring and early summer, has enabled you to really think about your life, work, and passions like never before. Perhaps a little navel-gazing can be a good thing, to allow us a bit of the right sort of selfishness – to look after our own dreams for a change, maybe to put a couple of things into place in our lives that we’ve often yearned for? That thing you’ve always wanted to do, that you imagined doing once your children were old enough to need a bit less attention, that you thought you were never good enough at, or that you told yourself you never had time to pursue? What if the events of this year were partly the universe giving you a gentle nudge, to encourage you to think deeper about the thing? Could you spend these last few weeks of 2020 really thinking seriously about it, do a little research, look deeper into your heart and mind?
I know it can be so hard to look forward into the darkness, especially after such an incredibly uncertain year – we feel like digging in our heels and pulling the covers over our heads sometimes, we want to hibernate and hope to wake up into a better world. So, let’s try to lighten ourselves up a bit now (no pun intended!). After all, by the time we get to the end of these five weeks, the days will have begun to lengthen ever so slightly – by the time Hogmanay’s here we’ll have a few more minutes daylight at either end of the day.
So maybe it’s not really a final countdown to the end of something, but more the start of counting down to a new season, a new beginning, and looking towards a different way for the new year? Many children will start their Advent calendars tomorrow, along with plenty of adults I know, so how about spending a few minutes thinking about an extra countdown, as you enjoy your chocolates, cheese, or mini drinks from your calendar?!