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In an interesting passage in Notes from a Small Island, Bill Bryson remarks that one of the things he likes about the British (and that distinguishes them from Americans) is their ability to be happy with little things; a reminiscence inspired by the sight of a couple sitting outside their beach-front holiday home in the middle of an English winter, in a howling gale, wrapped in blankets, and the observation that they were perfectly content because when they wanted to “they could retire to the hut and be fractionally less cold. They could make a cup of tea and, if they were feeling particularly rakish, have a chocolate digestive biscuit.”
It’s something I’m trying to emulate, in the general sense of appreciating what I have and not being discontent because I don’t have, for example, a Mercedes, but in light of the festive season I’ve seen another aspect to it. Families spend a lot of time and effort thinking about what they’re going to get for Uncle John et al., trying to find out what various people actually want (depending on the person – some people are easy to choose a gift for, and then there’s me), and worrying about how they’re going to pay for it all. Then, of course, on the day you have all the Oscar-worthy acting as you endeavour to convince Aunt Gertrude that it’s just what you’ve always wanted while all the time trying to find out what on earth it is.
The interesting thing about Christmas day, is that I’ve seen equally large family gatherings (whether for a birthday or other occasion or just because the sun is shining and everyone’s in town) that involve much the same things, yet are far less stressful. It’s good to remember to that it doesn’t have to be perfect, as long as you’re having fun, and to stop and remember that it’s really about an amazing gift given to all of us, many years ago, in a little town in the West Bank.