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 You are in: Special Report: 1998: 12/98: Visions of Christmas  
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Visions of Christmas Wednesday, 10 March, 1999, 21:48 GMT
An eye on simplicity
Caring for sick children
Caring for others is at the heart of the Christmas message
BBC News Online is presenting a series of personal viewpoints on Christmas from Christians from all walks of life. In this, the first of five features, Catholic convert and Tory MP Ann Widdecombe says we need to get back to basics at Christmas.

"Bah! Humbug!" declared Ebeneezer Scrooge of Christmas in Dickens's Christmas Carol and sometimes I sympathise with the old miser.

Not because I am a killjoy but because the joy of Christmas has been replaced by an institutionalised excess of expenditure and self-indulgence.

I nonetheless try to swim against the tide and remember just what it is we are meant to be celebrating.

True, by the time Christmas comes I have had a score of Christmas lunches, taken part in numerous carol concerts and exchanged cards with hundreds of people. But there it stops.

Ann Widdecombe prefers the simple approach
Ann Widdecombe has her fill of Christmas excess before its even begun
I have neither lunch nor dinner on Christmas day.

Instead I visit the hospital and other emergency services in my constituency including the centre for the homeless.

I take humbugs and fudge on the grounds that surely people would expect nothing else from a politician. I also round off the visit by going to see the new-born Christmas babies. Somehow this routine recaptures the spirit of Christmas which otherwise would be commercialised out of recognition.

Christ came to comfort the poor and the sick and the essence of Christmas is a new birth. Yet each year it becomes more difficult to measure Christmas in anything other than retail sales.

There has been considerable comment about the secularisation of the millennium. Surveys show that only a minority of people know that the year 2000 AD is the anniversary of our redemption. That however can hardly be a source of surprise when we increasingly ignore the true meaning of Christmas.

Yet underneath it all I detect a yearning for a simpler approach. Christmas also seems to bring with it a tidal wave of sentimentality with old films on television, soft carol music and pictures of old-fashioned celebrations.

Many of us are lucky enough to recall with pleasure the Christmases of our childhood: the gifts left by the chimney for Father Christmas, carols sung in biting cold weather, nativity plays, the warm glow we felt as Mother carried in the flaming Christmas pudding decorated with holly.

It was this simplicity which made it fun, which was the essence of the scene in the stable 2000 years ago and which I try to capture on Christmas Day.

Links to more Visions of Christmas stories are at the foot of the page.


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