Christmas Today – ‘Tis the reason for the Season


Merry Christmas!

We used to say that to each other not long ago. The spirit of Christmas would affect every home on the days leading up to December 25. Those were the days when we were young, back home in Ghana. We would put on (sometimes because our parents made us) the best of clothes and shoes.

Parents, especially mothers, would save some money over time for Christmas shopping for their children. The new clothes couldn’t be put on until Christmas day. It was on this day that even the have-nots would strive to dine on sumptuous meals of fowl soup and fufuo.

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 on our new and sometimes oversized 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 moved 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 the center of town to share experiences of our Christmas tours. If we were lucky enough to lay our hands on “rocket,” “bandit,” or nsoroma firecrackers, we would use them to play pranks on friends, or throw them as far as possible, enjoying their trail of sight and sound. That was our fireworks. We would go home late, exhausted, to wait eagerly for another Christmas. That was the way we celebrated the yuletide back in the old village.

But Christmas, as was initially established, was indeed a time of excesses. For the initiated, the night before Christmas was a time for binge drinking. The Romans are said to be the first Europeans to have celebrated the darkest days of winter as a holiday in honor of the planet Saturn. Because winter solstice was characterized by dark, cold long nights, the Sun was presumed dead and 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 week-long celebration of excesses – drinking, gambling, cross-dressing, and free-will debauchery. It was indeed a free time of plenty, when all the grains had 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 importantly, amidst plenty, it was a time of giving and sharing. Merrymakers would go from house to house in inebriated mode demanding to be invited for whatsoever was available to be served. Failure to do so could spell trouble.

Christmas came along to the New World, but it wasn’t long before colonial Massachusetts banned the holidays as paganistic, only to repeal the ban seven years later. In 1659 the law that banned the celebration said,

“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 decades, the old ways of celebrating Christmas have given way to a profit-making venture.

In the weeks leading up to Christmas, business is brisk. Numerous evergreen trees (aka Christmas trees mowed down for sale), light deco, Christmas cards, and everything in between have become part of a family’s yearly budget. 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 humans and property.

In retrospect, commercialization has all but dimmed the essence of the reason for the season. The once-spirited occasion of willingly sharing and giving is now replaced by obligatory giving. By the end of the holidays, the average Christmas celebrant is saddled with increased debts. There is no “merry” anymore in the celebrations, and people now prefer to say to one another “Happy Holidays” instead of the traditional “Merry Christmas.”

‘Tis the reason for the Season

Happy Holidays, folks!

The writer is the editor of Amandla

Posted by on Dec 14 2021. 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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