A Caring Christmas Advent Calendar

It’s December, which means that it’s time to start opening the windows on the advent calendar…

A Caring Christmas Advent Calendar

Each day our gift to our readers is a little story of wonder, celebrating how we care for our world and each other.

On the 1st December, Maxine got the festive season off to a poignant start, thinking about family bonds and the need for connections in both the human and animal worlds. Enjoy! There will be new stories on the advent calendar right up till Christmas, so keep reading, and please do share these moments of joy and wonder with your friends, families and loved ones.

Never Forgetting Family Bond

by Maxine

As Christmas approaches, now more than ever we want to feel our connections with family, after being kept apart from one another for so long.

When we think of Christmas, we conjure up a perfect image of family, having lots of people around and presents and food, right?

During these extraordinary times, family and connecting with others for our wellbeing and mental health has never been more important, especially as for some of us Christmas is already one of the most difficult times of the year, global pandemic aside! We are all trying to support each other as best we can to get through these tough times. However, support does not always come from actual family members, we are cared for in many ways by many different people… from help with everyday household tasks to someone just being there to have a cup of tea with and chat, or whatever is needed at the time.

People do not necessarily think of animals having these same kinds of bonds. But they do – although maybe not the cup of tea! Today, I want to highlight an animal who cares, supports and nurtures as a family and to show that we all need that bond to help us cope with everyday struggles – human or animal.

One of my favourite examples of family bonding is the elephant. Elephants are known for their intelligence, long memory and deep family bonds. They are amazing in the love they have for one another. The leader or matriarch is the female head of the herd, much the same as in some human families where they will refer to a strong female figure as ‘the matriarch of the family’. Well, if anyone grew up with an Irish mother as I did, that definitely describes her – ‘the matriarch’ that is, not the elephant part – although if you were really naughty it might have sounded like an elephant charging at you! Anyway, back to the elephants.

An elephant mother and calf walking through the Masai Mara (source)

She is called the matriarch because she is the oldest and has a wealth of information to support her herd through tough times like drought, as she knows where to find food and water. I think elephants are incredible animals with generations of females helping and supporting each other to raise the babies and keep them protected. Just like humans, elephants mourn their loved ones, and it has been recorded that they will return to where their friend has died, even going so far as to touch the bones, remembering them. Bonding like this is so fundamental to their wellbeing, happiness and survival.

Bonding for humans and that need for connection – feeling that someone is there for you no matter what – is a trait we share with so many in the animal kingdom. We all need some form of connection with others, be it family, friends or carers. It has been a fundamental part of us since humans first walked the earth.

So, keep safe and have the best Christmas you can.

Maxine Carson-Byrne

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