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Blue Christmas

LPNI Health Topic – December 2016
Blue Christmas
Many of us, especially those of us in the USA, remember an Elvis Presley song from 1957 entitled Blue Christmas.  The lyrics were written by Billy Hays and Jay Johnson.  They go:
I’ll have a blue Christmas without you,
I’ll be so blue just thinking about you,
Decorations of red on a green Christmas tree,
Won’t be the same dear, if you’re not here with me.
And when those blue snowflakes start falling,
That’s when those blue memories start calling,
You’ll be doin’ all right with your Christmas of white,
But I’ll have a blue, blue, blue, blue Christmas.
At this time of year when many people are celebrating in red, green, gold and silver, others can only see and feel “blue”, sad, depressed, lonely, isolated, and forgotten.
Blue Christmas symptoms are similar to those of depression, grief and mourning.  There is a fatigue not relieved by rest, low energy and flat affect, maybe a craving for sweets and the subsequent weight gain, feelings of isolation, helplessness and hopelessness.  There may also be a heartfelt longing for people, relationships and times all passed.   The fact that there is decreased sunlight, and thus less vitamin D assimilation, contributes to the depressed feelings.  This is also the same time of year as an increase in SAD ̶ Seasonal Affective Disorder ̶ which has a similar type of physiological and psychological response in individuals.
For those churches that conduct a Blue Christmas service, this is usually done on the evening of December 21st.   This day is selected because, in the northern hemisphere, it is the shortest day and longest night of the year, which further contributes to dark feelings.  When individuals and families have lost loved ones during the year, the joyful and glorious spirit of Christmas is muted because of the loss.   The service provides people with an opportunity to worship with others who share their same feelings. Generally there is a candle lighting ceremony as well as a prayer component and hymn sing which brings some light to the body, joy in the heart and peace to the soul of the survivors.
It is the role of the parish nurse and pastor to be cognizant of the members of the congregation and community who have lost loved ones, and to provide this service of healing for them.  The Bible reminds us (Matthew 18:20): Where there are two or three gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them. Hopefully, then, with this assurance, individuals and families who may be feeling ‘blue’ will be able to feel more comfortable contributing to the Christmas festivities.
Jamie Spikes, PhD, RN
St. Luke Lutheran Church
Manhattan, KS, USA
 
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