Tidings of comfort and joy

Lubna Abdel-Aziz, Tuesday 10 Dec 2019


This is the season for rejoicing, renewing friendships and family ties, of “little nameless and unremembered acts of kindness and love”. Food takes centre stage and we all indulge in the traditional delicacies of the season’s offerings.

Much as we try to resist, savoury tid-bits assault our senses, pursuing us everywhere. We can no longer resist. Forget about diet, moderation, health, let us enjoy and relish. This is the best of times.

A typical weight gain is 2-4 kilogrammes during the last month of the year.

As if this was not depressing enough, another danger lurks around the corner, waiting patiently for year’s end to strike its deadly blow.

Scientists call it SAD, for Seasonal Affective Disorder, one of the most common depressions during winter. It is not related to food or drink, joy and merriment, rather to the diminished amount of daylight and the long hours of darkness.

Officially the winter solstice occurs on 21 December, marking the shortest day of the year, which happens to be right smack in the middle of our holiday season.

Distracted by our myriad commitments, long nights are welcome.

Once friends and family depart, the Christmas tree is down and “Auld Lang Syne” has been sung, we start to experience, the blues or the blahs— a period of low energy, fatigue and general lethargy.

A carbohydrate craving occurs, leading to more weight gain.

SAD victims fall into a deeper depression and more food does not cover up disturbed emotion.

If our title sounds sinister or misleading, it is not meant to be. Rather it is a cautionary note, so we can become cognisant of those undesirable conditions and prevent them.

Approach food with discretion, despite the greatly tempting holiday feasts. Big doses of carbohydrates only add to your desire for more.

Stay in contact with all the friends and family members you enjoyed re-uniting with. By all means avoid loneliness and snacks.

Christmas is big business, you may find yourself in debt —that too is not a great comfort.

Enjoy the comfort and joy. Avoid extravagance that will wear out body and soul.

The Hollywood Christmas cheer factory is kept busy year after year offering some sentimental Christmas ware. The joy remains in films made over half a century ago. They are playful, joyful, loving and tender and as comfortable as an old bathrobe.

Even contemporary films like Love Actually studded with stars is entertaining. Elf has popped up recently to capture our hearts. We laugh and cry, tears of joy, and somehow that sums up Christmas.

Some classics you may have never heard of are certainly worth your attention.

Charles Dickens’ immortal A Christmas Carol, first published in 1843, has been produced on film over 200 times around the world, with 15 major productions in Hollywood.

The ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future will remain haunting you as they did Scrooge, the miserly old man who finally understands the message of Christmas and the joy of giving.

Another classic, the younger generation may be unfamiliar with is Miracle On 34th Street. There are several versions, but we recommend the 1947 production with Edmund Gwen as the authentic Kris Kringle.

Curl up and watch it as you sip on a warm drink, or invite friends who may have never seen it. Share this Oscar winning masterpiece.

It is a wonderful life, and to prove it, find a version of Frank Capra’s great film, It’s A Wonderful Life. It’s an oldy but goody, indeed.

James Stewart is a great American actor who stars as George Bailey who finds out what the world would have been like had he never been born. No one can resist a tear or two as the whole town sings “Auld Lang Syne”. It leaves us with a lesson well learnt and a swelling sensation of optimum joy.

What a thought. If only we too could stop and ponder. Our life is a gift, not just for us but for so many people around us we may not even know, but we touched them in one way or another throughout our life’s journey.

Films made for children are just as popular among adults. We all seem to be children this time of year. The best element of these films is their stress on family togetherness, which we may have lost in past years.

Take Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, the poem is in every child’s home and so should be a version of the 1965 film production. Some of those films we grew up with may be the same films we’ll grow old with. These are the classics that stand the test of time, thrilling generation after generation.

Other annual Christmas fare is Tchaikovsky’s ballet suite The Nutcracker and there is bound to be a stage adaptation of A Christmas Carol somewhere, everywhere.

Hospitals double their emergency staff during the holidays. Too much carousing can lead to accidents, diseases and other unfortunate incidents. Like the Grinch, they steal the pleasures of Christmas.

By all means partake of this beautiful season’s offerings. Do not deprive yourself. Deprivation leads to indulgence, indulgence leads to guilt, guilt leads to overindulgence.

 Think twice before you reach for that last bite. Do you really need it, nah, you can do without it.

Be jolly, be merry, but also be wary.

“At Christmas play and make good cheer/ For Christmas comes but once a year.”

 Thomas Tusser (1524-1580)

*A version of this article appears in print in the 12 December, 2019 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.

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