• Kirstyn Oliver

In search of joy this Christmas.

Inspired by a post on social media about advertisements during the Christmas season, how they portray a “perfect” Christmas, and how that mentally and emotionally affects autistic people and their families (because for them, such things just don’t happen), I truly think more awareness of differences and respect for individuality should be shared. At the end of the day, who has the right answer to what a “perfect” Christmas should look like? The actual meaning of Christmas answers that.

Before talking about the meaning of Christmas and what the season should or shouldn’t look like this year. I do want to bring awareness to those who have just never experienced Christmas out of the box called tradition. Yes, we all make our own traditions, but many still follow the tradition and trends that other people set, many many years ago.

Do you make Christmastime an enjoyable feast? Do you cook your favourite food? Or do you prepare what you are told should be the appropriate dinner. Isn’t it more enjoyable if your child actually eats and delights in their food, be it chicken nuggets or pizza, rather than causing a meltdown or sensory issues over a bit of dry turkey, or sloppy gravy?

Can you have a peaceful season, if you are day after day picking up broken decorations because, what is all this sparkle about and a tree inside the house? How could one comprehend such change? Would it be a smooth season if we didn’t go over the top to make our houses look like everyone else’s.

Could you be all excited to wake up early Christmas morning if you actually had a sleepless night, and not because a child was excited but because that’s what nights look like for you all year round.

Can you fully give and receive love with such big gatherings or parties going on in the house? The whole family round for dinner in a small space, everyone wanting to talk about their year and recall past memories. What if that noise triggers you, or you are claustrophobic and love just means something different to you. Love is in the quiet, love is in the smile, love is in knowing you are safe and secure, in a space you are familiar with.

The list does not end there, these are just a few examples to get us thinking of the reason why we do what we do, and who we are doing them for. It is not selfish to not follow tradition, create your own tradition, make your own memories.

The real meaning of Christmas should be in our hearts and minds. The gift has already been given. Peace is already available for those who seek it. Jesus is our living hope.

It is not a one-off celebration each year, we can celebrate Jesus’ birth all year round. Joy came to the world through such a small attribute, a small baby. What small things bring you joy?

The Christmas story put together is called the nativity. Nativity comes from the Latin word Natal which means native/birth. The Christmas nativity was the beginning of new hope, the native place of where Jesus’ story of incarnation began. What is native to you? What does the beginning of joy and hope look like in your story? Sometimes we need to refocus and go back to the beginning, to better place ourselves in where we are right now, the present. Don’t let the worldly traditions or other’s expectations limit you, your child or your family’s discovery of hope, love and joy.

The connection and relationship between God and the world was restored and brought closer by a simply act of love, and it began with a small baby. No matter how small you think something is this Christmas, whether it be a quiet day with no family, whether it be a simple smile, a day with no (or fewer) meltdowns, a gesture, or simply knowing the love in the room, remember it can have the power to transform a life, it can bring joy into this world. Be ready to encounter those moments, they are unique to you.

To finish a reflection for those who might not have an autistic child or family member, try and practice the art of being your true self this Christmas, take time out of the chaos or earthly traditions, take time out of comparing your life to someone else’s. Think about how simple it can be to encounter the real love, hope, peace and joy this season.

Wishing all my readers a very Happy, Peaceful, Joyful and Lovely Christmas.

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