Christmas at the Community Home – A Reflection

Everyone has a different view of what Christmas means to them. For some it is a religious holiday, celebrating the birth of Christ, for others it is a time of giving and receiving, a time of family and friends coming together, occasionally for the only time each year. At the Community Home, Christmas has its own meaning.

Christmas for the residents is a stark reminder that many have children that they won’t be seeing and who may not even know the situation which their parent may be facing. One of the residents told me that “walking through the intu centre didn’t feel real – everyone was so happy with their bags and bags of shopping,” some no doubt laden with toys and games for son and daughters, nieces and nephews, or maybe grandchildren. Christmas cannot be the same for the residents as it is for those rushing about in the weeks running up to the holiday but we try our hardest to be a family at this difficult time of year, we even did our own ‘Secret Santa’ so that everyone had a gift waiting under the tree but for some of the residents, it was the only gift they got.

On the Friday before Christmas, we went out together for a meal as a house – in those final days before Christmas emotions start to build, people start missing family and TV programmes change to a modern ideal of a family Christmas so spending time together as a house is incredibly important. We put up the tree together, not because I wanted to, but because the residents did.

We try to keep Christmas Day gentle for the residents with just them and key team members. The staff give up their Christmas every year to keep consistency – there is no rest but it keeps the safe and secure environment when people are at their most vulnerable. For all of the Community Home team, we see it as a privilege because we get to spend the time with some of the most kind-hearted and caring people we know. The whole house was amazing, despite the trauma attached to the holiday, as we sat around the dining table for Christmas dinner. By the end of the day we all had stuffed bellies and just sat around watching cheesy Christmas films together.

On New Year’s Eve we had a barbecue, unusual I know, but after a particularly generous donation from a local supermarket arrived, our plans for a takeaway were pushed aside as some of the foods that arrived were perfect for cooking over a fire. Barbecues are a great way of bringing people together – everyone has their own thing to do. Again, it’s all about unity in the Community Home, even when it’s close to zero degrees outside! For some of the residents, this could be the first New Year in 20 or so years they have been sober and so we sat together in the lounge after dinner and watched the fireworks on TV, drinking hot chocolate and eating marshmallows.

Despite all the sadness surrounding the Christmas and New Year week, there were still plenty of smiles and laughter in the house. The residents got through it and I know that wouldn’t be possible without the continuity of the Community Home, the gentle approach to recovery, and the genuine family feeling that the home brings.

For me, the most important thing is that I work with some of the most amazing people in the world. Despite the traumas, complex issues faced, challenging needs and behaviours, residents that come to the Community Home prove to be some of the kindest and most caring people to spend the holiday with – these people who have experienced so much pain, so much heartache will open up their Christmas to you and make it a truly special time of year.

Annette – Community Home Manager

Joe Meehan