By Jenny Kerr
The decorations are up. The festive lights have been switched on and shoppers are packing shopping centres across the country in preparation for the big day. Yes, it’s that time of year again; Christmas time!
The time children all over the world write their letters to Santa; in the hope that they will wake up on Christmas morning to find their gifts sitting under the Christmas tree.
There are certain things about Christmas that I love which those of you who are able bodied may take for granted. Things like helping out in the kitchen with the making of the Christmas dinner, the cooking of the Christmas cake and puddings and our homemade secret recipe for punch. My favourite part of the festive season though, happens around the 8th of December.
This is when my family finally ventures into the attic to take down our Christmas tree and all the decorations. After which we all pile into the living room to decorate the tree. I have always loved this family tradition, as after we finish decorating the tree, we sit down in the living room together listening to our Christmas music.
For me, Christmas would not be Christmas without listening to my favourite Christmas album which includes songs by artists such as Frank Sinatra. We also include some more modern versions of classic Christmas songs in our ‘play list’ for the day from artists such as Shakin’ Stevens, Slade and Mariah Carey.
I love this time of year! I love seeing people gathered together, whether it be at a Christmas party or huddled up by the fireplace with the fire burning brightly. Growing up, the best part of Christmas for me was waking up early on Christmas morning to see what the big man in red had placed on the end of my bed.
For those of us who happen to have a disability, this time of year can create many obstacles; for example the weather. In the winter of 2009, Ireland was hit by severe snow storms. Everywhere was covered in a blanket of white snow and traffic along all of the countries roads was at a standstill. These kinds of extreme weather conditions can quite often create extra stress and strain on what is an already difficult situation for some people with disabilities, especially for those living in rural areas. Due to this, many of those people cannot gain access to public or private transport to meet their social needs and are forced to stay indoors for long periods of time.
The weeks leading up to Christmas can be a stressful time for shoppers. That goes for those with a disability too. The pressure of trying to buy the bulk of your Christmas presents in one go may seem like a daunting task but add to that a busy shopping centre and a person with limited mobility and those tasks become a nightmare. This is quite often the case for many people with disabilities.
Thankfully though, many charity organisations, such as the Irish Wheelchair Association, organise shopping trips for their members’ weeks before the Christmas rush, giving them the chance to do their Christmas shopping before everyone else.
For me, this is what the spirit of Christmas is all about. People coming together to help those in need so that they can enjoy the magic of the festive season, just like everyone else.
After all, without people around to celebrate, Christmas just would not be the same!