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This week Professor Mona Siddiqui, Assistant Principal Religion and Society, reflects on how we can make the most of the restrictions over the festive period.

Christmas is very near now and many people are wondering how to make it extra special this year. Despite having a little more flexibility over the festive period, we’re still being advised to avoid unnecessary mixing among family and friends. So its not surprising that families are being creative in their preparations for a slightly different kind of Christmas this year.The Christmas tree in Old College Quad

Whatever the arguments about Christmas having lost its true meaning or becoming too commercialised, the truth is that no other religious or cultural festival quite matches up to Christmas or features as much on the global consciousness. Christmas doesn’t just look and sound beautiful, it also makes many of us feel different about ourselves and others.

Yet there’s a sense that people are putting extra pressure on themselves to make this day compensate for the various struggles of this year. This pressure to create something perfect for one day seems to me neither healthy nor realistic. Whether it’s the tree, tinsel or turkey, its good to be prepared and look forward to a time of joy and hospitality. But undue stress in the pursuit of something perfect, the struggle to make your Christmas look like a TV advert, means many find it difficult to cope.

We have all endured highs and lows over the last few months. But the next few weeks should be a time of hope and even relaxation where possible. Spending limited time with limited family is even more precious at Christmas but rather than stress about creating perfection, its important to be grateful for the blessings of health, love and friendship. These are the things we can all share, which lift us all but which cost nothing.