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How I Deck the Halls Despite Difficult Days With Chronic Illness

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“Tis the season to be jolly, fa la la la la, la la la la.”

Is it? Do you feel jolly or do you feel exhausted and stressed? Do you feel overwhelmed by your chronic illness, which refuses to understand Christmas is fast approaching, and you really could do with feeling healthy for the festive season?

We can dream of halcyon days, but the reality is our chronic disease is generally here to stay. So we need to find new ways to live well during a holly, jolly Christmas time.

Softly and Gently

My chronic disease places many physical restrictions on me and, as a result, has removed many simple joys from Christmases past.

I can no longer bake my Christmas cake and pudding. It was always the baking process I enjoyed and the smell of it cooking. Ooh… not to mention decorating it with marzipan and royal icing.

I can no longer bake a full Christmas dinner (although my hubby can and he’s a great cook). I miss stuffing the turkey and working out the timing to put on the roast veggies etc. So much fun — when you get it right!

My list could go on as I think about the simple traditions of old I used to enjoy in my home. Whatever I do now needs to be done in a “softly and gently” way. So new traditions need to be formed. Traditions that will conjure up the Christmas spirit. Traditions that will make Christmas, my Christmas, full of “comfort and joy.”

Comfort and Joy

When I think of Christmas at home, I think of being nestled and surrounded by the people and the things I love. Being mostly housebound due to my disease means my new Christmas traditions need to be focused totally in the home. I love my home, so I’m off to a good start. I love creating nestling spaces all year round, where I can read, write and listen to music.

Now all I have to do is make those spaces feel like Christmas in some way. It’s all pretty basic when all the pieces of my new Christmas traditions come together. Suddenly I have not only created a sense of festive comfort and joy, but I can sing with meaning, “‘Tis the season to be jolly, fa la la la la, la la la la.”

So what are my “Comfort and Joy” traditions? I’d love to share them with you. Remember though, this is what I enjoy. You can create your own “Comfort and Joy” traditions that reflect your loves and lifestyle. Hopefully, my ideas will just give you a starting point and get you thinking about how to make Christmas a jolly season in your home.

Holiday decorations from Samantha's home -- stockings, Joy 3D statue/sign.

These Are a Few of My Favorite Things

  1. It all starts with a Christmas tree. I have no ability to put my tree up anymore, but I’m blessed my husband can. I’m a great artistic director, though, while sitting in my armchair enjoying a cup of tea and a Christmas shortbread. If you can’t put a tree up, and don’t have help at hand, decorate an indoor plant or perhaps buy a pre-decorated small table tree. It’s all about creating an atmosphere that makes you smile.
  2. Deck the halls. I love having ornaments and special Christmas books adorning my home. It means everywhere I go in my house, I get a sense that “it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas.” It’s also something I can physically do in terms of arranging them. It brings me great joy.
  3. Creating special daily moments. One of the things I have always loved is the lead up to Christmas. So I decided to buy a new advent calendar last year. It’s made of wood and I fill each little box with a Christmas surprise. My husband and I take turns opening the day’s box each morning from the 1st December through to Christmas Day. It’s a bit of fun and sets the season aside from any usual day. I place it in our bedroom, so I wake up to something special which gets me into the Christmas spirit.
  4. Special corners. Having a special place to sit and relax is often really important when living with chronic illness. An armchair next to a table for books, a cup of tea and a special Christmas ornament is just perfect to rest a body dealing with chronic illness. Turn on some Christmas music and the scene is set for embracing “’tis the season to be jolly.”

Special Gifts

The Christmas before last, my Aunty sent us the most delightful book. She sent it early and told us to open it straight away. We soon discovered why, as it’s full of wonderful Christmas stories and traditions.

My husband and I love reading together, so every morning during December, we created a tradition of reading a chapter of this beautiful book. It makes us laugh, cry and reminisce, as many of the stories rekindle memories of our bygone Christmas traditions.

Last Christmas, I was contemplating special gifts and blogging on the topic, when my husband walked in from the post office with a big Christmas box. “Guess who this is from?” he asked with a huge smile on his face.

I had no idea, so I had to try and elevate myself off the chair, where I’d been happily writing and resting my broken bones, to unravel the mystery. I finally made it to the kitchen, crutches in hand, to discover the beautiful box was from my gorgeous stepdaughter and family. How exciting!

I just had to know if we were allowed to open it or if it was to be kept for Christmas Day. A quick text and an equally quick reply, told us it was a gift to be opened straight away. Now here was a definite comfort and joy moment. Family, love and early Christmas presents!

The gift was gorgeous. A glorious Christmas village scene, made of wood, which lights up and brought us so much joy throughout last year’s Christmas season. We can’t wait to put it out again this year!

‘Tis Not Always the Season to Be Jolly

Christmas is not always a jolly season for people, for many reasons. It can often be a Blue Christmas, rather than one filled with red, green and gold.

This year, COVID-19 restrictions and lockdowns around the world will keep many families and loved ones separated. Many may be celebrating Christmas alone for the first time.

Creating a sense of Christmas in our homes this year might be more important than ever. It doesn’t have to be lavish to be special, and every moment doesn’t have to be happy and jolly. My days are full of severe pain and many moments are too distressing physically to possibly be jolly. However, the Christmas atmosphere I’ve created in my home, and the simple traditions I can embrace despite my health issues, bring me comfort.

Whatever your circumstances, if you can find something special this Christmas and create a new tradition, which is right for you, I’d encourage you to do it. Chronic illness can be hard enough on a regular day. At this time of the year, a festive distraction could just be what the doctor ordered.

I hope and pray your lead-up to Christmas can be filled with special moments of comfort and joy.

Originally published: November 25, 2020
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