“I’ll be home for Christmas, You can plan on me, Please have snow and mistletoe, And presents under the tree…” While these lyrics are beautiful and poignant to some, they can be gut-wrenching and painful for others.
Christmas is a time of festive celebrations with family and friends or so commercialism has taught us to believe. The Hallmark Channel is littered with every type of movie with a happy and sappy Christmas ending. You can’t pop down to the grocery store without hearing about Rudolph’s Red Nose, and youcan’t turn on the TV or radio without some commercial telling you to buy the perfect gift. For some, this frenzied Festivus is anything but fun. Sometimes there are no friends to buy for, no loved one returning, no presents under a tree, and no happy Hallmark ending. It can be a very hard, lonely and dark season for some.
Canadian Memorial United Church tangibly recognizes this and offers a time of refuge from the “holly and jolly”. Called ‘Blue Christmas’ the service is designed especially for those that are grieving and who are lonely this year. It’s an hour to escape the pressure to be happy in the face of holiday expectations and to just accept that they are experiencing pain and uncertainty this Christmas season.
Reverend Beth Hayward says, “We as a congregation look forward to this service every year. We are humans and humans feel everything – even if we put a brave face on. When we look at the spectrum of life and all that is in it, yes there are grand celebrations and accomplishments but there are also failures, job losses, sick loved ones, illnesses and uncertainty in our own lives. And sometimes it’s even just a gut feeling of melancholy. Blue Christmas in a way celebrates this. It acknowledges who we are and where we are going in all of the messiness that makes us human.”
Inge (last name withheld) attended Blue Christmas last year after her husband – the love of her life – died of cancer just a few short months before. The then newlywed was deep into mourning. She says, “Although I’d heard about CMUC’s Blue Christmas, I didn’t attend a service until last year. I would always make a note of the date, because my husband was living with a terminal illness, and I knew it was only a matter of time before I would want and need to escape the merriment of Christmas and sit in a safe space and be sad. Last spring it happened: my husband died and I needed a time out from all the seasonal cheer. I went alone but was joined by so many others, and without knowing or needing to know each other’s stories, we sat and let tears run down our cheeks, we remembered, we loved, we were quiet, we lit candles, and at the end we were free to hug one another or simply slip away. I was so grateful to have a designated time and space to be blue because allowing my grief to have its moment gave me the courage and strength to move forward into the festive season.
Six weeks ago my mother died, and I find myself here again, in that isolating fog of mourning. But I’m not actually alone, for I will go to the Blue Christmas service again, and there will be dozens and dozens of people needing this respite. I will go and be still, and remember, and in doing so, I will be well.”
Reverend Beth says, “We know that offering this time, place and safe space is so important. Every year this service grows. Some that attend are really grieving a loss, others come to have lonely hearts filled, while others are just wanting to press pause and take a big reflective breath during the season. The music is meditative and we guide this tender audience through a series of reflections. I truly believe as things just seem to ramp up every year and there is no proper time to be quiet and transparent, that everyone needs a Blue Christmas. It’s a chance to just ‘be’. To be all that is human, and to feel all of the feels, no matter what time of year.”
Blue Christmas takes place this year on December 19 at 7:30pm. There will be a time of music, quiet reflection, and stories. The service is free and open to all.
When: Wednesday, December 19, 2018
Where: Canadian Memorial United Church (15th Avenue at Burrard Street)
Cost: Free to attend.
ALL ARE WELCOME.