Dr Ciara Kelly: Poignancy of letting on to be happy at Christmas
'It was Christmas eve babe..." So starts one of the most enduring Christmas songs of the last 30 years. It's up there with Joni Mitchell's River and Judy Garland's Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas as beautiful songs that bring out the poignancy of being broken when all around you are celebrating Christmas. And I'd suggest that they are so beautiful because all of us on some level can relate to that. All of us on some level know what it is to pretend to smile and be happy when inside our heart is aching and things are not all tinsel and fairy lights.
Judy Garland's version of Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas is particularly gorgeous as she's singing it to her daughter in the film Meet Me In St Louis and she's actually telling her even though everything - even hope - seems lost, they battle on and endure. And there is that added heartbreak of watching this woman trying to protect her children from the reality of their situation by singing a lullaby, as so many have done before and after her. There are people all over Ireland who are doing that same thing today - trying to protect their kids from their reality. People experiencing very real anguish in their lives for any number of reasons. People who know what it is to be emotionally out of step with the rest of the world and who know how isolating it feels to be the 'only person' who's not happy at the most wonderful time of the year.
It isn't true either of course, Christmas doesn't make anyone's problems go away - in fact it can exaggerate them, so it isn't the case that you are the only person who's sad, alone, heartbroken or lost. It's just the time of the year when we put a gloss over all that and celebrate despite it. And maybe that's OK. Maybe we actually need occasionally to believe in the message of optimism and hope that comes from Christmas. That comes from celebrating life - even when life isn't all that great.