COMMENT:

So we're inching ever closer to what should be the most relaxing time of year - although it never is, is it?

Pressure comes from all quarters around Christmas, we seem to have lost sight of the meaning of it, as we lurch ever closer to copying American holiday trends and wild consumerism.

For many, it's more about lights, trees, online shopping - and long lists of people to buy presents for. For others, it's a time of keenly felt loss, of stress, or anxiety, or pressure.

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So are we losing sight of all the little things? Just the low key hangs with family, the giving, some downtime.

I read a stat the other day that more and more of us are declaring 'no religion' in the census, yet 88 per cent of us still celebrate Christmas by having a special meal, exchanging presents, and/or decorating the house.

But what else are we good at at this time of year? Stress and domestic violence, abandonment of animals, financial pressure, family tensions.

One in four Kiwis feel pressure from their family to spend more on Christmas than they'd like to, according to polling by the Commission for Financial Capability. It's stronger among young people: just over a third of those aged 18-34 reported feeling pressured to spend. People fear not being seen as generous. Those who feel it most are those who can afford Christmas the least.

And then there's those for whom there may be no family or community to surround them at all, those who find themselves in severe distress at this time of year.

Lifeline says it's introducing 100 new counsellors to cope with the Christmas holiday period. They received more than 10,000 calls last December – they say the nature of the Christmas holiday period calls are more harrowing, many of the callers are high-risk.

And it's not just crisis help centres who see the ugly side of this time of year either, police figures show family harm is at its worst at Christmas too.

Last December more than 550 incidents of "acts intended to cause injury" in domestic situations, were reported.

So yes Christmas is a wonderful time of year, but the facts also show it's still unbearably tough for many.

It doesn't hurt to remember that, and to try to do what we can to minimise the stress for each other.