I remember the opening verses of the song “First of May” by Bee Gees, they said: “When I was small, and Christmas trees were tall, We used to love while others used to play. Don’t ask me why, but time has passed us by, Some one else moved in from far away. Now we are tall, and Christmas trees are small…”, this song is a part of the original score of the film Melody a tender history of love between two children and because of it speaks of love. But these verses also highlight the way in which we see the world; this is, from the height of our eyes, because of it, when we grow it minimizes and often it loses its magic.
Now Christmas time is coming for a large part of the humanity, and it’s interesting to note the changes in a generalized way of the own behaviour and the expectations of the people; it seems that all of us were shrinking or at least we were wishing it, and associated with it we were returning to believe in the magic.
In this time, most of the more important cities around the world dress their streets with Christmas adornments, thousands of Santa Claus or maybe one omnipresent walk along them spreading the Christmas spirit making the children dream, who are encouraged by his parents to believe in the magic of such a figure, dressed in red and calling our attention with a bell.
Neuroscience has demonstrated that memories of arousing ‘real-life’ events show that emotion heighten the feeling of remembering, without necessarily enhancing the objective accuracy of the memories. We measured brain activity associated with the feeling of remembering emotional and neutral stimulus. While neutral events are directed to the hippocampus cortex emotional events impact in the amygdala, and this impact reinforce their presence in our memories. Neuroimaging studies have helped to clarify the ways in which the amygdala may modulate attention. These studies have provided evidence that the amygdala is activated by at least some emotional stimuli.
That is the reason why all around us is plenty of music, colours and smells in Christmas. Stimulus that have an important influence in the way that lots of messages address to our emotional hemisphere and less to our rational mind. Children’s emotional reactions to brighten colours became increasingly positive with age, and girls in particular showed a preference for brighter colours and a dislike for darker colours.
Studies about colours have demonstrated that red transmits force and energy. It symbolizes both the love and the violence. It calls the attention and stimulates the mind. Golden is associated with the wealth and the prosperity. Though everything what shines is a gold the golden colour suggests greatness; and these two colours are the Christmas colours.
Because of the intention to transform this time in a jolly age for the infancy along the world we can find several traditions in the same way promoting a mythical figure who brings gifs, especially toys to the children as a prize due to their good attitude, like: Santa Claus, Noel, The Three Kings or Befana, the old Italian woman.
“The Little Prince” by Antoine de Saint-Exupery, is an honouring book to the infancy, his author says in it: “All grown-ups were once children… but only few of them remember it.” If there is a season in the year when the majority of us feel like a child is Christmas.
Finally Christmas time is also the prelude of the arrival of New year. And also, around this event, there are few traditions as a rite of passage from one age to other; like eating 12 grapes at midnight while you ask for 12 wishes, one for each month of the year; the tradition of the New Years Eve Kiss or the Italian tradition of dinner a plate of lentils.
Maybe, behind all of this questions, there is an answer to why during 1st Jan, lot of people stop smoking, begin to gym, to study or several new intentions, which wrapped in the emotions seem to be more attainable to us than to the cold light of the reason.
Tali Sharot, Mauricio R Delgado & Elizabeth A Phelps (2004) How emotion enhances the feeling of remembering, Nature Neuroscience, 7, 1376-1380.
Elizabeth A. Kensinger (2004) Remembering emotional experiences: The contribution of valence and arousal; Review of Neuroescience, 15(4):241-51
Dr. Ramón Rizo Gómez
Doctor in Psychology
Research Associate & IRIANS’s Representative
for the Iberian Peninsula.
IRIANS- The Neuroscience Institute