Season’s meanings

Thinking about the Christmas story I realise it’s full of possible interpretations. The festive season can be upbeat and joyous, with stories full of fun and revelry.

Classic Christmas comedy from Morcambe & Wise

Then there’s the historical story of abandonment, the seeking of refuge, a sacrifice of first born children and a massacre of innocents.

Peter Breughle the Elder, ‘Massacre of the Innocents’.

There are stories of loneliness, seeking solace in dreams and faraway places.

John Lewis ‘Moon’ commercial

There are stories of nativity, reconnection with innocence, of belonging, magic, surprise and wonder.

The wonder of Christmas by Susy Morris

As with any type of ritual, the nuances in all these story forms can become easily lost in the telling. It’s in the nature of folklore, perhaps, that the full spectrum of possibilities in the stories we tell can be erased, easily rubbed away and boiled down, sacrificed to the common narrative that becomes the thing to participate in. And it can be tempting not to look into any story too deeply and to give up personal connections and individual meaning as we search to fit in.

Stories have an enduring potency when they resonate or offer a usefulness. And personal interpretations about how we feel at Christmas time can become dulled when they rub up against the more commercially useful narrative of gift-giving.

There’s also the time and opportunity that Christmas brings to just tune out, over-indulge and take some time off in recompense for the rest of the year which is spent, head down, working for the man. If that respite is what Christmas is about, the non-story becomes a story too.

In the bleak midwinter, all these stories are something to treasure. They are stories of human identification, expression and the solace we can get in the most humble and quiet of sanctuaries, our own hearts.

So whatever narrative rings most true for you, this is a time to think about what stories matter the most, whether they are tales of abandonment or cosy security, the guidance of a North Star or a few days of distraction, with family, friends or alone.

The seasonal meanings of the stories we tell ourselves and each other are an exquisite experience of connection and we can choose to give and to receive and to value them, just as they are.

The stories inside us are the key to our own nativity. Through their discovery, they are our re-birth and renewal. No embellishments needed. All we need to do is listen to them.