It can be particularly difficult not to feel the stress and overwhelming power of consumerism that accompany this time of the year. Twenty four hour shopping even on Sundays, pre-Christmas sales that spur spending on unnecessary stuff and shops abubble with frenzied customers can be exhausting to the most ardent Christmas lover. And then, there is the quandary of which relative to invite for Christmas lunch and what present to buy them given that you only see them once a year (perhaps for good reason). Work can seem to pile on and the trail of unread emails grows longer as you prepare to wind down for the holidays. There are certainly quite a few parties too, but they often lack authentic or deep joy and instead offer heavy drinking and at times awkward moments with the boss (involving heavy drinking).
So how does one truly en-joy Christmas?
I live in Salzburg, Austria where the pace is different, as if you had stepped back in time 40 years. Salzburg epitomizes a fairytale winter wonderland. The old town with its beautiful churches and restored medieval buildings, the Salzach river shimmering with the reflection of lights adorning the many bridges and the surrounding mountains and hills covered with a dusting of snow all make up the perfect backdrop for a Christmas scenery.
Then there is the Christmas market; beautifully decorated wooden huts arranged around a central mega-Christmas tree. Some sell shiny trinkets and baubles, others lure cold passers by to stop for a warming Glühwein (mulled wine) and a hearty bowl of steaming goulash soup. The crunch of the snow underneath the feet and the scent of frankincense in the air are ubiquitous.
Here as anywhere else, one could get sucked into the shopping craze that seems to paralyse so many. However, I find myself - and others in this town - enjoying the simple things in life like the snow covered landscape, the lit up bridges and eating hot roasted chestnuts. Sometimes, I just sit and watch the flickering flame of a candle on the advent wreath. At other times, I listen to Nat King Cole's velvety voice singing Christmas songs.
There is a quality of being in the moment. It's the entire time leading up to Christmas that is enjoyed for the soul warming yet simple memories that are etched in the mind.
To me, this is pure joy!