Christmas Today – ‘Tis a reason of the season

by Kofi Ayim

Merry Christmas! We used to say to each other not long ago. The spirit of Christmas would affect every home before December 25. Those were the days when we were young back home in Ghana. We would put on (or were made to put on) the best of clothes and shoes. Every parent, especially mothers, would gradually save some money for Christmas shopping for their children. The clothes couldn’t be put on until Christmas day. It is on this day that even the have-nots would strife to dine on sumptuous meal of fowl soup and fufu. The rich ones would have a goat or sheep for feast. We never mounted a Christmas tree, and Father Christmas, the American Santa Claus was out of reach. We heard about him, but never knew where he lived or when he would come to our village, yet the air around was charged with the spirit of the occasion. In our new clothes we would start the yearly errand of visiting as many homes as our tiny legs and new shoes could carry us. At each home, we would be served portions of Christmas feast and showered with Huntley & Palmers Gem Crackers, washed down with portello or muscatella soda. We would string the crackers and use them as necklaces and hand-bands as we move from house to house. Late afternoon we would go back to our families and enjoy dinner with visiting family members and friends. In the evening we would all converge at center of town to share experiences of our Christmas tours. If we were lucky to lay hands on “rocket,” bandit” or “nsoroma” firecrackers we would use them to play pranks on friends; or throw them as far as possible, enjoying its trail of sight and sound. That was our fireworks. We would go home late and exhausted to wait eagerly for another Christmas. For the initiated, the night before Christmas was a time for binge drinking. Truly Christmas has been a time of excesses.
The Romans are said to be the first Europeans to have celebrated the darkest days of winter as holiday in honor of the planet Saturn. Because winter solstice was characterized by dark, cold long nights, the Sun was presumed dead but brought back to life with the gradual increase of sunlight. Thus, the Sun “died” and rose again. The socio cultural event called Saturnalia evolved into Christianity as Christmas.
In its original form Saturnalia was a weeklong celebration of excesses – to drink, gamble, cross dress and free will debauch. It was indeed a free time of plenty, when all the grains have been harvested and the cold weather helped preserve meat and other produce; when surplus grains that had been processed into local alcoholic drinks were ready to be enjoyed; and when social order was reversed with Masters serving servants and slaves. More important, amidst plenty, it was a time of giving and sharing. Merrymakers would go from house to house in inebriate mood demanding to be invited for whatsoever is available to be had. Failure to do so could spell trouble. Christmas came along to the New World, but it wasn’t long that Massachusetts banned the holidays as paganistic only to repeal it seven years later. In 1659 the law that banned the celebration was “Anyone found observing abstinence from labor, feasting or any other celebration of any such day as Christmas shall be fined five shillings.”
For the past several years or decades Christmas has been in the operating room under the surgeon’s knife. Christmas cards and Christmas tree and its accompanying light deco were borne out of this cosmetic surgery. In the weeks leading to Christmas business is brisk. Numerous evergreen trees are mowed down for sale. Electric bills go up a notch by the little flickers of lights, and defective electric extension cables and sockets are prone to cause havoc to human and property. In retrospect, commercialization has all but dimmed the essence of the reason of the season. The once spirited occasion of willingly giving and sharing is now replaced by stressful and obligatory giving, not with charity organizations calling for donations at ungodly hours. By the end of the holidays we are saddled with increased debts. No wonder these days’ people say to one another “Happy Holidays” instead of the traditional “Merry Christmas,” for there is no longer “merry” in the celebrations. ‘Tis the reason of the Season – Happy Holidays folks!

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Posted by on Dec 16 2014. Filed under Artcultainment. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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