As soon as the holiday season rolls around, people start getting messages from all sides that the time has come to start feeling merry and bright. The coming of Christmas, however, does not stop difficult and painful things from happening. That’s the premise behind the “Blue Christmas” church service that is happening in a number of communities across the Eastern Townships over the coming week. “This is a time of year that brings with it significant challenges; emotionally, physically, financially, mentally, spiritually, and it’s an opportunity for us to allow the heartache and the sadness that can be prevalent in people’s lives this time of year a space to be recognized without feeling that you always have to be out there with a smile on your face,” said Rev. Tami Spires, who leads a Blue Christmas service every year in the United Eaton Valley Pastoral Charge of the United Church. “It’s hard to hold Christmas in your heart when you’re feeling lost and heartbroken and not sure where to turn.” The tradition, which Spires traced back at least 20 years, often sees Blue Christmas marked on or around the Winter solstice, because of the fact that it is the longest night of the year. There is no hard and fast rule, however, meaning that different communities that want to hold such a service make time for it in different places. This year Spires’ service will be taking place at Sawyerville United Church on the night of December 21, starting at 7 p.m. but in Lennoxville, the local United Church is building Blue Christmas right into their regular Sunday morning schedule. See full story in the Monday, Dec. 16 edition of The Record.