T is for tradition. Why do we hang the mistletoe and kiss underneath it? Why a Christmas wreath at our front door? Why do you do what you do at Christmas? Be curious – explore your traditions. Not only may you get familial insights and learn and understand your families more, but also you learn for your next generation why we do what we do at Christmas on a general and personal level, ready for when they ask the question.

One of my traditions has been going to the Snow and Ice Festival of the Station Square in Bruges. An iso-thermal tent with a themed ice display. Can you guess from the photo what the theme was that year?

U is for understanding. We all have our own map of the world. We understand our own perspective very well. And sometimes that can lead to miscommunication, lack of rapport, pain, conflict, the list goes on, because we haven’t understood someone else’s. Our free will, naturally. But, when you next come across a challenging situation – perhaps someone has upset or hurt you in some way – try to consider their perspective of the situation. What might they believe? What might they be thinking? What possibilities could have led them to act that way? How might they be feeling? Try it, see how it expands your view of the world, and alters your interaction between you and the other person. Would treating them with compassion and understanding, or offering your help, fare better than speaking about them behind their back, or sulking and not speaking to them at all. Consider when fire meets fire…and when fire meets water. Have boundaries, have assertiveness, but also have compassion and understanding as you may find a different way to help you both in such an event.

V is for volunteering. Ever thought of volunteering Christmas Day or Boxing Day? I spent time with the Salvation Army last year, helping dish up plates of Christmas dinner for those that were homeless, and it was the most humbling experience ever. I remember coming home chilled through from having one of the doors there open for health and safety… and I remember going to switch my kettle on and get a hot water bottle to my back, with a sudden realisation of how easily I was able to access these resources, and how those people I had helped could not do that any night they were on the street. I felt humbled, waves of gratitude flooded through me, and an appreciation of what I have. We all need to try and help one another wherever we can with whatever we can do for others. At any time in our life, that could also be any one of us. If we all gave a little wherever we could, how much more love would exist in this world.

There are many places that are looking for volunteers: animal shelters, homelessness centres, Crisis, Salvation Army, even the Rucksack Project in Maidstone deliver filled rucksacks to the Homeless in December. Even carol singing at a local hospice or hospital may be a possibility to put a smile on someone’s face that day.

W is for Winter Solstice. In the Northern Hemisphere, the Winter solstice is on the 21st/22nd December, and is the start of winter. It used to celebrate the return of the Sun god when light would return.

X is for Xmas. Why do we shorten it? According to the link below, split the word in two to ‘Christ’ + ‘mass’. In the Greek alphabet, X is the symbol for the letter ‘chi’. It’s also the first letter in the Greek word for Christ, so Christmas and Xmas are pretty much similar ‘Christ + mas’ and ‘X + mas’.

https://www.grammarly.com/blog/why-do-we-shorten-christmas-as-xmas/ (accessed 18th Dec 2016)

Y is for Yule. A festival observed by the historical Germanic people and can be connected to the God Odin and the pagan Anglo-Saxon Modraniht. Most of us would be familiar with the term Yule log and this also comes from Pagan Yule. There are Old Norse meanings and Germanic paganism associations as well.  Yule is a modern take on Old English words and if you follow the Etymology on this link you can read more about its’ relation to the month of Yule, and before and after the festival. Look up the Twelve Days of Christmas on there as well, and why we take the decs down on the 12th Night.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yule (accessed 20th Dec 2016)

Z is for Zzzzzzz’s. How lovely that as well as the cookies/mince pie and drink for Santa, children these days get to have a countdown – how many sleeps till Santa. How amazing must that feel for them…the excitement, the belief in that Christmas magic.  I wonder how many of you remember as a child being told ‘he won’t come unless you’re asleep, you need to go to bed like a good little boy/girl’… but sometimes you were SO excited, it was hard to go to sleep! Eventually you’d drop off, and when you awoke, perhaps he hadn’t been yet, you sighed and fell back to sleep, and then suddenly you would wake again, and ‘GASP!’ your Christmas stocking or sack was brimming with presents, and you couldn’t wait until you could get up and tell your parent(s) he’d been!!!

Click for Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 of the Christmas Alphabet to discover more about the old traditions and my own perspectives.