While we like to think of Christmas and the holidays throughout December as the most wonderful time of the year, for many it can be quite the opposite.
There are a variety of reasons for why this time of year is a challenge for residents of the Bow Valley.
For some, they may be far away from home, missing family, friends and their support system during a holiday when we gather together.
For others, the seasonal challenge of low daylight hours can affect their mood and energy levels.
But for many, it is the expectations around Christmas and gift giving, combined with the incredibly high cost of living in this region that can be really hard to cope with.
Luckily we have several organizations in the valley that step up during Christmas to try and lighten the load on those struggling financially.
Both the Christmas Spirit campaign in Canmore, which also supports families in the MD of Bighorn and the Stoney Nakoda First Nation, and Santa’s Anonymous in Banff and Lake Louise, are hard at work right now to support many in our communities.
But in order for them to be successful and reach their fundraising goals – they need all of our help.
Over the past couple of years, both campaigns have seen changes in how they support families and single people who are struggling. Instead of the traditional hamper, full of canned goods donated by the community, people will receive gift cards to local grocery stores.
This means those receiving help over the holidays will be able to choose for themselves what kind of celebration or feast they will have come Christmas.
Maybe they want the classic turkey dinner, or maybe they want to stock their pantry with food they know they like to keep them fed over the next few weeks.
Either way, they get to have agency over the support they receive from the community.
But in order to be able to meet the need, both campaigns require financial support.
If you cannot afford to support these campaigns financially, then your time and effort would be welcomed instead. Particularly for Santa’s Anonymous, which had to scale back its toy drive this year due to a lack of volunteers.
The Eagle’s Nest women’s emergency shelter in Morley is also in need of community support this season. It is looking for items for the mothers and grandmothers in the community and there are various drop off locations throughout the valley for those wishing to show support.
Perhaps the best thing for you this holiday season might be to take care of yourself first. Self care at this time of year is important, because there are many expectations and commitments that can leave us feeling overwhelmed and stressed out.
If the pressure to purchase gifts for everyone you know is weighing on you, remember that your presence in the lives of friends and family is a priceless gift you can give.
Trinkets and gifts may bring a smile to someone’s face, but spending quality time with those you love brings joy to everyone.
As we move through the darkest time of the year, taking care of our friends, family and neighbours, as well as ourselves, will be the greatest gift we can bestow.
If you are alone, reach out. If you are hosting a get together, invite those who are far away from home. There are plenty of events to participate in to connect with others – including a free community pancake breakfast at the Banff Seniors Centre on Dec. 25.
If you are feeling the overwhelming pressure to deliver on holiday expectations, take advantage of the community resources available to you this time of year.
And remember, we live in a place with many resources and our communities go above and beyond to support those in need.