As Christmas draws nearer, it may be hard for some to get into the holly-jolly mood.
Whether it’s the uncertainty related to a lost job, the pain of the recent death of a loved one, or the anguish of a medical or health-related problem, there are some who will have trouble adjusting to the festive season.
That is why St. Matthew’s Evangelical Lutheran Church in Conestogo will be hosting their sixth-annual Longest Night ceremony on Dec. 21, also referred to as “Blue Christmas.”
The ceremony recognizes that despite this being a joyous time of year, there is still the reality of pain, sadness and insecurity in people’s lives.
“Many people can feel saddened at Christmas and just feel out of sync with the holiday,” said Monika Wiesner, the pastor at St. Matthew’s.
The non-denominational Christmas service – which coincides with the longest night of the year – is an acknowledgement of that sadness and strives to create a safe place for people to grieve their loss or honour a loved one. Last year saw upwards of 70 people attend.
“We received a lot of positive feedback,” said Wiesner, a former oncology nurse who lost both her parents during the holiday season.
“Often there is an unspoken expectation that grief and pain should remain out of sight, and there is the expectation that we’re all joyous and bubbly at this time of year,” she said, adding that those expectations can in fact enhance the feelings of loneliness and despair as it tends to isolate people even more.
The service includes a candle-lighting ceremony as well as Christmas carols such as ‘Silent Night’ which are more reflective of the more introspective atmosphere of the service.
The service is also designed to give those who attend a renewed sense of hope. When they arrive at the church they are in the midst of the longest night of the year – when the sun shines for the fewest hours – but once they leave, they gain new hope knowing that the days will start getting longer.
The service beings at 7 p.m. at St. Matthews’s church located at 131 Flax Mill Drive in Conestogo on Dec. 21. Following the service those in attendance are welcome to remain and chat and enjoy refreshments. The church is wheelchair accessible and anyone who needs a ride is asked to contact the church, (519) 664-2760.