Thursday, December 22, 2011


The Gift of Light and Joy

The sappy season is well upon us. The streets sparkle with brightly coloured lights, the stores ring with song, and gold and glitter are everywhere. So are people, whizzing about the streets, ducking into liquor stores, juggling parcels and enduring long lines. There are only three more days till Christmas, and six more night of Hanukah. For the laggards, time is running short.

So I will keep this blog brief. Very few of us have time to waste these days. In my case, my house needs a miracle. There are floors to vacuum, furniture to dust, beds to make, kitchens to scrub, fridges to fill… It has to be transformed from a writer’s messy lair into a Hanukah holiday celebration before the kids come home on Saturday. The dogs are not helping by coming back into the house after every outing soaking wet and muddy.

I love this time of year. I love the lights, the songs, the excitement, the smiles and warmth of perfect strangers. Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, it doesn’t matter to me. What matters is that people wish each other well. But I know that this is a very difficult time for some people. For those who live alone and may get no gifts, those who suffer from ill health or recent loss, and those who struggle to put cereal on the table, let alone a turkey or a platter of golden latkes. This is a dark season for them, made darker by the joy of others all around them.

I’m a believer in giving gifts. A gift thoughtfully chosen and happily received bonds both giver and recipient. For those with little, even the smallest gift can be transformative, for it reminds them that someone cares. At the risk of being sappy, I have two suggestions for all of us as we rush around buying that last gift. First of all, shop in your local independent small stores. They have put personal thought into every item they choose for their stores, and the results are unique and interesting. These are hard times for them, but if we lose them to the big chains, a part of our community will be gone.

Secondly, think about just one person you know who is struggling with this time of year. It might be the elderly neighbour on your street, the widow facing her first holiday alone, or the single parent who can barely pay the rent, let alone buy gifts. Consider what would be the perfect gift for them. It might be dropping by to visit with a box of chocolates and a holiday card. It might be an invitation to join your celebration. It might be a book for the kids. If we all reach out to one person we know, chances are we’d make the season feel even more special for ourselves too.

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukah, Happy Winter Solstice, top of the season to us all!

Barbara Fradkin is a child psychologist with a fascination for how we turn bad. In addition to her darkly haunting short stories in the Ladies Killing Circle anthologies, she writes the gritty, Ottawa-based Inspector Green novels which havewon back to back Arthur Ellis Awards for Best Novel from Crime Writers of Canada. The eighth in the series, Beautiful Lie the Dead, explores love in all its complications. And, her new Rapid Read from Orca, The Fall Guy, was launched in May.

1 comment:

  1. Barbara --
    A lovely thought to do a small kindness for another person. Something that we should all be thinking about every day, but this holiday season more especially, as there are so many people who will have difficulties of one kind or other this time of year. My parents always invited others to join our family Christmas table, so that taught us to include those who may be alone or far from home into our homes. Sometimes that small thing is eveything.
    Your blog today touched me & brought back happy memories. Happy Holidays to you.