Christmas is a celebratory time: one particular day and of course the weeks leading up to it when people buzz around like crazed insects, often unthinkingly. Preparations are essential: “obligatory” gifts for friends, loved ones and colleagues; party planning; Christmas cards; travel plans for the big day, or the lavish and long summer holidays that will ensue.

But while we make such preparations, and while we fill our minds and external lives with the things we “must” do, we forget the essence of Christ-mas (to avoid the stock-standard and dismally over-used term “the true meaning of Christmas”, although the two terms mean exactly the same thing).

Undoubtedly, this essence is at everybody’s heart: the desire, if not the innate need, to be with and close to family and friends, to celebrate with one another, share a meal (or three, or five), to share and receive stories, love and the customary material gift. But the “need” and the “desire” become blown out, enlarged to the extreme and often so much so that we lose sight of this essence. It is overshadowed by consumerism, gluttony and vanity. The best gifts are given to impress, the biggest parties thrown to shatter all previous ones, the social buzz that comes from sending hundreds of sparsely-worded and often meaningless cards with messages of a “Merry Christmas” and a “Happy New Year” therein, words which are often already printed, saving us the hassle and effort of writing the words from our hearts ourselves.

By no means should these festivities and preparations cease. Rather, continue this, but always keep firmly lodged in mind the reason for all these things. Christmas is a time for messages of peace and comradeship to be circulated around, a time for loving others, such love you wish to be done unto you, a time for generosity of one’s spirit and whole person.