Christmas is almost upon us. For many this is a time to come together and celebrate. For others it is a time of stress and for some it is a time of loneliness. For most it has become a time of pressure; whether that is the pressure of spending time with family, the pressure of travelling somewhere, the pressure of cooking or the pressure of choosing (and affording) gifts.

For my sister, Christmas 2007 was defined by a different kind of pressure. She had a blood clot that made its way to her brain and the pressure it created gave her a serious, debilitating stroke from which she has never fully recovered.

The main reason cited for this brain injury was stress. She was worked up by the expectation of having a perfect Christmas. Of buying the right presents, of making sure everyone was going to have a perfect experience.

Expectations are dangerous things. They can be powerful tools for setting standards (both of ourselves and of others). But they can also be dangerous things that at best can make us forget what is important and at worst can be life-threatening.

As we near the end of the year and I pen the last of my Pastry Box thoughts I want you to think about what Christmas is about. And I don’t necessarily mean celebrating the birth of Christ. I mean the opportunity to give time to those around us. The opportunity to give attention and patience to those who we often neglect. The chance to focus on what is important and to give thought, action and love to those around us and to those less fortunate than ourselves.

Pawb Nadolig Llawen!