Cathy Madavan encourages us to look beyond the usual Christmas trappings, to reflect on what we can be grateful for every day


It’s that time of year again, with fairy lights galore, Bucks Fizz being sold at the end of every aisle and more party dresses on display than seems reasonable. While the festive season is accompanied by a wide range of emotions for many of us (for all kinds of reasons), there is something to be said for rediscovering the art of celebration. But celebrating at this time of year should not simply be about being the most popular or spending the most money. And it definitely isn’t about showing off our ‘perfect’ life or family online. Here then, are some ideas about how we might recapture and reimagine the art of celebration this season. 

1 Celebrate the change in seasons

As one year draws to a close and we begin to look forward to another, it can be helpful to lean into thankfulness, and to celebrate all that has been good in the past twelve months. I often look back through my calendar in December and journal about the highlights that have passed. Even in more challenging seasons there are blessings to give thanks for. One thing I will give thanks for this year is this column! This will be my final ‘5 things’ article, but next year I will return with a new monthly offering. Something to look forward to, I hope!

2 Celebrate the ordinary 

In my recent book Why Less Means More (SPCK), I suggested we might want to get over our preoccupation with all things extraordinary and instead learn to notice, cherish and indeed celebrate the ordinary in each day. This seems to have resonated with so many people! Perhaps we are all a little weary of the constant striving and stressing to upgrade, with images of perfect (filtered) people, fancy Christmas ‘tablescapes’ and unrealistic life goals. Maybe it’s time to jump off that exhausting treadmill and learn to appreciate the small things – like a smile from a child, the aroma of a hearty soup and bread on a cold day, or a playlist of our favourite music. Instead of, “Go big or go home” we could maybe try, “Go small and thank God for the blessing of your home.” 


3 Celebrate in advance

Last year, when life was very challenging on planet Madavan, some friends gave

us a bottle of champagne. Now, either they were deeply insensitive (they are not!), or they wanted to encourage us that there would indeed be a time when good news would appear over the horizon again. We stared at that champagne for many months, believing with our friends that one day we would have something good to celebrate. Now, I am not suggesting we should all be manically manifesting, positively confessing or living in denial – not at all. Rather, we can trust that even long valleys don’t last forever, and God can and will turn ashes into beauty eventually. 

Even in more challenging seasons there are blessings to give thanks for

4 Celebrate others

What a wonderful time of year to honour, thank and celebrate those around us. It is lovely to buy school teachers gifts, but let’s also remember those who teach our children and youth in church, those who serve others faithfully in different ways, or people who have been extraordinary friends, role models or family members who we love and appreciate. Why not write a card, buy or make a gift or invite some people over for a thank you meal? Whatever your preferred method is remember: people are always worth celebrating!

5 Celebrate our certain hope

This advent season I am setting myself a challenge: I want to spend more time prayerfully thinking about the coming of Jesus and less time obsessing over finding the perfect gifts or sourcing the perfect recipe for sprouts that might convince others to eat them (it never works!). Whatever battles we face and whatever blessings we enjoy, our hope and our future is eternal, steadfast and secure in Jesus. It is worth pondering further upon the birth of our Messiah and Saviour, who was and is the pivot point in human history, and who came to bring us freedom, forgiveness and life in its fullness. What a wonderful hope we have to celebrate!