Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Christmas, a celebration like no other

It’s Christmas Day and I wish my dear readers happy celebration. It’s a season of love, sharing, caring, holidaying, indulgence and festivities. The Yuletide better known as the Christmas season is unique and special. Celebrated every year on December 25, the date is sacrosanct even though some theologians have come out to say that the birth of Jesus Christ which is celebrated on that day may have been miscalculated.

However, Christmas is peculiar in many respects. It is one celebration that is heralded by so much pageantry. The greetings during the season are special as people say to one another “Compliments of the season”, or “Yuletide” while the most common greeting style  on the D-Day is Merry Christmas! During the season, churches (both orthodox and Pentecostal), government at all levels, schools, and many private and public institutions take turns to organise Christmas carols where choirs engage in rendition of well-composed and rehearsed songs in commemoration of the birth of Christ. From about November 25, which is a clear one month ahead of Christmas, branded gift items in celebration of the season are usually offered for sale.

In fact, there are special offers with huge discounts for purchases made of some items during the season. Promotional music is also played on television and radio. Evergreen Christmas songs from Bonny M such as Silent Night, Feliz Navidad, Mary’s Boy Child, Noel, Joy to the World, Hark the Herald Angel Sing, and many others trend during the Yuletide.   GSM operators also cash in on the season by asking their customers to download the many special Christmas songs as their ringtones for a token. Mobile telephone operators also smile to the banks during the season as people make endless calls and send season’s greetings to friends, colleagues and loved ones via text messages.

Also unique to the season is the Santa Claus popularly known as Father Christmas where children especially are taken to grotto where a supposedly old, heavily bearded man dressed in the traditional Christmas attire of Red and White dishes out well-packaged gifts to those who come to visit him. A small access fee is paid to partake of this bonanza.  I recall with nostalgia the tale told us when we were young that Father Christmas lives in Jerusalem and only visits other parts of the world at Christmas time to give people gifts. There is also Christmas light and tree. Pine tree or its synthetic version wired with multi-coloured singing strobe lights are used for interior decoration at Christmas. Some state governments even go to the extent of beautifying major roundabouts with Christmas trees and lightings all in a bid to add fun and glamour to the season.

 There are equally Christmas colours which are red and green. Many public and private institutions as well as churches decorate their premises with well-designed chiffon materials. It’s all part of the celebration.  Yuletide is vacation and reunion time. It is a time for rest and recuperation.   Schools close for their first term during the season while many workers often fix their annual leave for the period. Some corporate organisations even close their offices during the period. This affords the workers who have been separated from their extended family members to travel home to reunite with them and share the joy of the season with kith and kin. Some organisations also do pay what is called 13th month salary to their workers which is one month salary bonus. This largesse enables many workers to have extra income to celebrate the time of year with their friends and loved ones.

Peculiar to Yuletide is the Christmas card and sale of hamper. As earlier said, it’s a season of giving and people strive to share with both the loved ones and the less-privileged. Thus, it is not uncommon to see people buying specially designed cards and picnic baskets packed with groceries and wines which they give out in appreciation to loved ones and well wishers. It is not only these that are given out at Christmas; foodstuffs, clothing materials, utensils are also shared out according to the giver’s level of grace. One can safely conclude that Christmas’ food is rice and chicken as this is the most popular menu on Christmas Day. Wrapped gifts received at Christmas are supposed to be opened on December 26 which is internationally recognised as Boxing Day.

Also synonymous with the Christmas season is the end-of-year parties, musical concerts and carnivals. The ones that readily come to mind are the Abuja Carnival, Port Harcourt Carnival known as Carniriv organised by Rivers State and Carnival Calabar organised by the Cross Rivers State Government. Many towns and communities, especially those from the South-East, also seize the opportunity of the Christmas season to set aside a day for fund raising for community development initiatives.

Another practice at Christmas is the use of fireworks. Bangers and knockouts are among the most popular fireworks on sale. Unfortunately, the uncontrolled and reckless use of these fireworks has wreaked havoc in many communities. These fireworks had set ablaze many houses, shops and offices as well as maimed and killed many people. This had made law enforcement agencies to ban the use of fireworks at Christmas in Nigeria. Despite the ban, these substances are still smuggled into the country and offered for sale.

Why is Christmas so unique? It’s simply because the person whose birth is being celebrated in that season –Jesus Christ – is himself a peculiar Being. His unique conception, His birth in a manger, His celebration by the Three Wise Men from the East who offered Him the gift of gold, frankincense, and myrrh, His eventual death at the age of 33 and His resurrection from death after three days and ascension to Heaven are all pointers to the fact that Jesus Christ is an unusual Being. Any wonder His birth is widely celebrated in an uncommon style?

Unfortunately, many celebrate Christmas without knowing the essence. They indulge in all manner of abuses – overeating, alcoholism, womanising, flaunting of wealth, etc.  They lack spiritual understanding of the celebration which is indeed the most important. Some also put themselves under undue pressure during the season as they strive to cater for the special needs of their families. They use up their little savings celebrating, forgetting the more important school fees they would have to pay barely a week after celebrating the Yuletide. Some parents even resort to borrowing to buy new cloths and prepare special dishes for their families and friends. Others indulge in crimes and criminality in order to source funds for Christmas celebration. This is against the spirit of Christmas.

Thus, as we celebrate another Christmas today, let us seek the spiritual understanding of the day and celebrate in moderation. Merry Christmas!