It’s always a white Christmas in the Yukon, but for many people it can be blue.
Sadness seems to be more intense during the holidays, said Rev. Beverly Brazier.
It’s not something unique to the territory. Brazier saw the same trend of holiday depression in the Maritimes, where she ministered for more than two decades.
“I see lots of people sitting right there saying, ‘I can’t stand this,’” she said during an interview in her office at the Whitehorse United Church. “We go through a lot of Kleenex.”
The Christmas season is, as the song says, “a time for cheer,” but for people already suffering from depression, the pressure to be “happy happy” can make it worse, said Brazier. That’s especially so in a place like the Yukon, where people are often far from friends and family.
“People end up feeling inadequate or like there’s something wrong with them, because inside they’re not feeling that.”
That’s why, along with the more traditional red, white and green Christmas services, the Whitehorse United Church – just as it has for the last several years – will also be putting on a blue Christmas service.
It’s a sombre event.
In the sanctuary the lights will be dimmed and there will be hymns played by a live musician.
“It’s a chance to just sit and be quiet and remember,” said Brazier. “If you’re there because you lost someone in the last year and you’re missing them, especially at Christmas time, there’s a chance to light a candle for that person.”
There will also be readings from the Bible in both English and French, and those who want to can come up for a blessing.
But there is no pressure to participate, said Brazier.
“People need to feel free,” she said. “If they just want to sit, they don’t need to come forward for the blessing, they don’t need to light a candle, they don’t need to do anything.”
About 20 to 25 people show up every year for the service, many of whom stick around afterward for refreshments – something that always surprises Brazier.
“I think it’s good to be with others that you’re pretty sure understand what you’re going through,” she said. “I find it’s surprising how few places there are where you can go and cry if you want to and it’s not a big deal.”
Though it is a religious service, people from all faiths, even no faith, are welcome.
“It’s not about church at all,” said Brazier. “It’s about a place to express your sadness in a spiritual kind of way.”
She knows from personal experience just how difficult the holidays can be.
The first Christmas after losing her husband in 1986 was especially hard, she said.
At the time she had been putting on a blue Christmas service for a few years, but her own pain made her realize how crucial a service like that can be.
“I remember thinking, ‘Yeah, this is really important. It’s important to acknowledge a loss or a pain,’” said Brazier. “There’s nothing wrong with you if you’re going through a bad time.”
Brazier was not the first minister to offer a blue Christmas service, and before she came to Whitehorse the United Church had already been doing it for several years.
The blue Christmas service is being held on Sunday, Dec. 9 at 4 p.m.
The idea is to have it earlier this year, before the rush of the holiday season gets into full gear.
“We ask ourselves every year, ‘If I was in that position, if I were sad at Christmas, would I want it to be closest to Christmas or would I want to kind of start the season out by acknowledging my pain and then I could get on with it?’” said Brazier.
Not all the services will be that sombre, though.
This Saturday, the church is holding a Cookie Walk fundraiser. For $5 or $10 people get a Tupperware that they can fill with as many Christmas cookies as it will fit.
The day before the blue Christmas service, on Dec. 8 at 4:30 p.m., the church is doing some Christmas crafting and decorating its tree. A supper and Christmas carols are set to follow.
On Dec. 16, at 10:30 a.m during the regular Sunday service, the United Church Choir is doing a special Christmas musical performance.
And on Christmas Eve at 7 p.m. the church is putting on a Christmas pageant which Brazier promised will be “wonderful, wild and crazy.” But that will be followed by a quieter carols and candles service at 9 p.m.
Contact Josh Kerr at firstname.lastname@example.org