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Going home for Christmas

by James Lamont

Suitable for Whole School (Sec)

Aims

To encourage students to think about the plight of people who are away from home at Christmas and value their own families.

Preparation and materials

  • None required, although an option would be to arrange for readers to lead this assembly, one for each step below.
  • Have available a Christmas song of your choosing and the means to play it during the period of reflection near the end of the assembly.

Assembly

  1. Over a period of 40 days every year, over a billion people will make the journey home for Christmas in China. China’s huge population, size and economy have resulted in families being spread out across this very large nation. Moving so many people involves a substantial national effort and it is recognized as being the world’s largest annual human migration. The main festival celebrated in China is the New Year, which usually covers both Chinese and the Western New Year. Each worker has 7 days’ holiday, but the migration is spread over 40 days.

  2. Less of a challenge in this country, but equally important to many, is the need to go home for Christmas. Busy roads, crowded trains and airline delays cede into a relaxing and fulfilling break, as family members travel long distances to be with those they love.

  3. The need to be with one’s family at this time is a common human feeling, yet many have to spend Christmas away from home. An estimated 5.5 million British people live abroad – almost 1 in 10 of the UK population. The number one destination for expats is Australia – 1.3 million. It is not hard to imagine why. The distance between the UK and Australia is such, however, that many cannot afford the flights to come home for Christmas. Similarly, British servicemen and women abroad may not be able to get the time off they need to make their journeys.

  4. For those serving prison sentences, Christmas can be especially harsh. Every prisoner is allowed to make a phone call to a loved one, but that is the only outside contact. Prisoners receive a gift bag from the prison governor and dinner is ‘better than usual’, but that is as far as celebrations go. For many prisoners, memories of Christmas on the outside make this time one of the most difficult of the year.

  5. In this country, there live many people who cannot afford to travel home to be with their families over Christmas. The many migrants who have travelled to the UK for work may be spending Christmas in temporary accommodation, thinking of their families many miles away and feeling very lonely.

  6. Refugees right across the globe have been separated from those whom they love by political factors. They cannot risk travelling home.

  7. Sadly, too, many will spend this Christmas away from a loved one because he or she died earlier in the year.

Time for reflection

We are told that, for many, Christmas can be highly stressful as families spend time together. Indeed, it is an annual event that demands flexibility from everyone, but, despite this, the overall experience shows us the importance of spending time with loved ones over Christmas. As a billion Chinese people know, it is important to make an effort and spend Christmas with those we care about.

Let us now spend a little time thinking about and valuing our families.

Play the Christmas song of your choice.

Hymn

A Christmas song of your choice.

Publication date: December 2013   (Vol.15 No.12)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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