Don't let marketing blitz mask the need for personal contact at Christmas
NO doubt anyone reading this will have noticed that the annual barrage of Christmas advertising is by now in full swing and the festive shopping season is, supposedly at least, well underway.
The Christmas season, it is often said, seems to begin earlier every year. Certainly in recent times, with competing retailers more and more desperate to part people from their cash, that does seem to be the case.
In many towns across Ireland, Christmas baubles were in shops before Halloween as the seasonal marketing frenzy took hold.
For many people this, largely commercial, obsession with Christmas is a tremendous annoyance that does little more than rob the festival of its true meaning. For others it serves only to prolong a remarkably difficult and emotional time of the year.
Despite all the sentimentality forced on us by supermarket chains or fizzy drinks merchants, there are many people who find Christmas a desperately lonely and painful occasion.
Whether because of loneliness, bereavement, poverty or other issues, there are thousands of people, in every community across Ireland who will find the next few weeks very tough.
The elderly and infirm are especially vulnerable at this time of year when long nights and cold weather will also conspire to make their lives harder.
The recent case of Wexford woman Bridget Crosbie highlights the need to be aware of our elderly neighbours over Christmas, and indeed throughout the year.
Ms Crosbie's remains were discovered in her home on Friday evening and it is though she may have lain, undiscovered, in the house for up to two months.
This is not to suggest that Ms Crosbie was in any way let down by her community. By all accounts she was a devout and intensely private woman who valued her privacy above almost all else.
However, the story of her passing does highlight how, sometimes, people can slip though the cracks and a death or illness may, for any number of reasons, not be discovered for some time.
We all need to be aware of the vulnerable in our community, of all ages, and make the effort to reach out to them. Some may want it and some may not but the effort should still be made.
It is all too easy to "get into the Christmas spirit" by heading online and sharing a schmaltzy Christmas ad that's designed to sell more jumpers and coffee machines. Those who really want to embrace the spirit of the holidays would be better served popping into a lonely, ill or elderly neighbour for a cup of tea and an actual conversation.
There are people of all ages and in all walks of life who will find themselves feeling vulnerable. Whatever the reason behind their suffering we need to reach out to these people too. If you really want to embrace the Christmas spirit, forget manipulative, saccharine drenched animated ads about hibernating bears.
Put down the smartphone, forget the present shopping for a few minutes and look at the people around you. That's what Christmas should be about.