Why We Believe in Christmas Tales


On a cold winter evening, sit comfortably on the couch and watch a movie or read a book with a touching plot: about how a poor, lonely hero or heroine first wandered, froze and starved, offended by cruel people, and how happily their fate later changed .. …

In everyday life, we tend to do our best to prevent others from mistaking us for naive people. We do not often give vent to feelings, we do not believe the promises of incredible happy ends, in any situation we want to remain realistic and in general stand as firmly on the ground as possible.

But once a year we can afford it – to relax and be sentimental: on New Year’s holidays we seem to get permission (alone or with our children) to plunge back into childhood. Allow yourself to feel like a child again. Believe in a happy ending and even cry over it …

The experience of abandonment

A secret weakness for sentimental Christmas stories is that they appeal directly to the childish side of the personality. In Christmastide stories, in stories of miraculous deliverances, we often talk about lonely, defenseless children, those who were left without parents. “These images excite us for a reason,” explains psychologist and fairy tale therapist Olga Khukhlaeva. “After all, the experience of abandonment is universal: in some corner of the soul of everyone – even the most successful and self-confident adult – still lives a lonely child, offended, disliked.”

In whatever family we once grew up in: happy (with caring and sensitive adults) or not very (where we lacked attention and warmth), we strove to be in the center of parental love and wanted to own them completely. And, of course, they could not realize this childhood fantasy of omnipotence. “The attitude of a child to his parents is always ambivalent,” continues Olga Khukhlaeva. – He loves them, but at the same time he is angry with them, offended, jealous. And sometimes, experiencing an offense, he imagines himself an orphan. “

That is why the fantasies that these real mother and father (who demand, punish, go about their business) are not real, but real (always kind, everyone understands) will surely ever be found and surrounded with boundless love, have touched the heart for a long time grown children at all times and in all countries.

Free the inner child

“The inner child is a spontaneous, playful, curious part of the personality,” says Jungian psychotherapist Larisa Kharlanova. “But for many of us it manifests itself only as an indecisive, weak inner voice, to which the person himself does not listen.” “With the modern cult of rationality, there is simply no room for the inner child,” agrees Olga Khukhlaeva.

But there are several mysterious winter days on the calendar, when adults seem to have the legal right to feel like children again. “New Year’s holidays are almost the only time of the year when we can“ legalize ”our inner child, release him into the wild,” says Larisa Kharlanova. “Through the cyclical nature of the New Year’s ritual, we feel a connection with ourselves when we are little, with our parents and more distant ancestors, as well as with our own children.”

If a weak hero, offended by fate, has achieved success, then we will all the more succeed

Everything that helps us to be a child is healing. “When, for example, we read about a hungry baby who is freezing on the street, looking out the window where the light is on and rich children unfold gifts by the elegant Christmas tree, we involuntarily project onto him the image of our wounded inner child,” explains Larisa Kharlanova. – And thanks to the indispensable happy ending, our “inner orphan” receives consolation, a promise that everything will be fine. And of course, reading about someone who is weaker and more helpless than us, we feel better and stronger. If a weak hero, offended by fate, has achieved success, then we will all the more succeed. “

It is not surprising that so many generations of children and adults empathize with the fate of Oliver Twist and heroes like him. This same psychological mechanism explains the success of the most famous orphan of the last decade – Harry Potter. Trying on the fate of children who survived, having lost their parents and having met death face to face, we all, regardless of age, receive a powerful charge of faith in ourselves.

Why do we believe in Christmas tales?

Join the miracle

On the days of New Year’s miracles, we can not only touch this forever inconsolable part of our personality, but also help – both our inner child and someone else who needs warmth and care. Larisa Kharlanova explains it this way: “Today, not everyone celebrates Christmas as a religious holiday, but we all remember that this day is associated with the birth of Jesus Christ. In his figure, two very strong archetypal images are combined – the baby and the savior. Thanks to their influence, it is during the Christmas days that we feel with special force our inner altruistic need to protect, help, do something good. “

The master of sentimental Christmas plots Charles Dickens was sure that “Christmas is the time when, louder than at any other time of the year, the memory of all the sorrows, grievances and suffering in the world around us speaks in us, which can be helped and encourages us to do good.” …

Meet destiny

Another topic that excites us in such stories is the opportunity to change our fate. New Year’s holidays are traditionally associated with magic and the other world. In Russia, Christmastide has always been divined – during the shortest days and longest nights, the border between the worlds seems to become permeable, allowing you to know the future. These days, we also have a special, magical feeling of a calendar break (as Andrei Voznesensky wrote, “from the first to the thirteenth is the gap between times …”), a transition to a different time and a state when the usual life freezes – and when you can influence on the course of events.

Book or screen stories in which incredible gifts of fate happen (lost children find their parents, hunger is replaced by abundance, loneliness and cold on the street – the comfort and warmth of the hearth), feed our expectation of a miracle, thirst for change, belief that we also have everything will work out.

“Our psyche perceives the New Year – a calendar turning point – as a starting point for new beginnings,” says Larisa Kharlanova. “Miracles, the salvation of the weak, transformations, new opportunities for those who could not and did not know how before – all this makes us believe that magic is possible”. The existence of forces that are capable of changing the fate of other people, even if they exist only on book pages or on an invitingly burning screen, promises each of us fabulous happiness in our own life …

“It is very important to believe that our world is kind”

Why do we believe in Christmas tales?Dina Sabitova, children’s writer

“Andersen could afford to end the Christmas story about a girl with matches with an unhappy (from the point of view of a modern person) ending: the orphan was freezing, the lights were burning, God accepted her innocent soul. I think that modern stories should be about good, which does not rely on higher powers. Or trusts not only in them. A true Christmas story is about how hope comes to where despair reigned. How exit and light are where the walls and darkness were. It’s always about people who need help. And it’s always about people who come to the rescue. For some reason, this is still considered a miracle in our country.

My two books (“Where there is no winter” and “Your three names”) are about orphans who have found a home. About adoptive parents who found their children. One of them ends just before Christmas – with the fact that the whole family gathers in an old, dear and beloved house, and this house is warm. Sometimes they say to me: this happy ending is invented, it is only to reassure the child-reader. I really always try to make the book end well, even if it contains tragic events. It seems to me that it is very important for children to believe that our world is kind, that happiness is possible and achievable, that everything is in our hands. But it’s not just my attitude. The happy ending is not fictional, both books are based on real stories. Because real miracles happen in life – in recent years I have come to know many people who have adopted orphans. “

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