Where’s the Mass for Christ?
For the fools, first of April all the way back from 21st March used to be the big deal that December 25th to 1st January is. It is called Christmas and no matter how new you are in Jerusalem, everyone knows that this is the day for remembrance of Christ’s birth. The tenet of God-made-man-to die-for-man is the anchor of Christianity, this tenet often makes for a good discussion and will inform my diatribe against consumerism.
This billion-dollar big deal may not pass for a Biblically sanctioned holiday. Rather it is a sanctioned by-product of edicts which some Christian sects dissociate from: stemming from a possibility of interreligious interactions. Delving into the history of Christmas gets as interesting as any perusal through history can be, as well as a futile attempt to understand why human beings are as complicated as they are.
This billion-dollar big deal is a National holiday in most Christian or open societies. Even funnier, cosmopolitan free-worship societies will see members of the opposite religion partake in some celebratory ambience. In Kenya, one will see Indian Buddhists visit children’s homes like the fictional Santa Claus while Muslims will be guests to the buffet tables of their Christian neighbours. Parks, malls, hotels and the like will be thronged with a diverse populace as most businesses cash in on the festivities.
The billion-dollar big deal is so profitable that societies which would ordinarily restrict Christian worship-think Dubai and China- have a Christmas ambience in December. Give us the Christmas, keep your Christ- it would appear business would say. Yet from Dickens’s “The Ghost of Christmas”, Christmas past may seem to many, a case of having had too little to celebrate with yet much to celebrate. Every adult I know might profess that their childhood Christmas seemed more festive-where there was less to spend, family was more than enough.
The reality of Christmas present in the urban Kenyan society is commercially stuffed with black Fridays and the foreboding frugality of January. Imagine transporting a pine tree over a two thousand kilometre distance, from frosty Limuru to sweltering Kisumu for a week’s use! In Africa, the economies of scale are not that big to warrant this as a popular business venture. Safe to say, most will share the communal city or church trees. Interestingly though, the ghost of Christmas future will have the current generation of children look back and remark,” Those were the best of times.”
Is it too preposterous to imagine that this billion-dollar big deal may be stretched too thin? The Christmas cow, supposing it was from the Biblical stable where Jesus was born, should be dead or milked dry at the very least. Strangely though, the corporates are still metaphorically selling the proverbial cow after the milk. Do not let that fool you into believing that this commercial jingling of bells and riding of reindeers will end. Christmas carols and albums will be sung and redone. Christmas stories will outspin the true humility of the birth of a saviour who is vehemently deliberated as a prophet or mystic at worst. If the recent emergence of alternative lifestyles, enlightenment and freedom of expression (at the expense of traditional religious foundations of society) are anything to go by, retirement looms. It is not too insane to imagine a retirement package for Old Saint Nick, his elves and reindeers as soon as corporates jump on to the next moneymaker holiday. As I see it, if the American founding fathers are mandated not to impose their trust in God on non-believers, then that same currency on which the very trust was embedded might lose its Christmas allure.
This billion-dollar big deal will slowly cease centring on Christ and His mass. As with other religions that come across the sea to Africans, Christianity might follow the aforementioned trends of Western countries. The melting icecaps spell impending doom for Santa Claus and with the emerging African Renaissance; perhaps Santa can relocate here for a Christmas cart driven by donkeys. We might even make it easier for him to work: no sneaking down chimneys. I am very sure Africa can pull off the genuine Nativity Scene in every homestead.
No doubt that the appetite for Western culture has fuelled the demand for imported consumables from these countries; a job for Father Christmas. Our signature Christmas dishes will remain to be of meat varieties for our family get-togethers. If Limuru and Nyahururu are anything to go by, some might even get regular snow with this global warming package. Perhaps the equatorial countries will be the only ones left with an enviable warm Christmas.
This billion-dollar big deal begs the question: If we do not spend, have we failed to celebrate? Recession and depressions prompt the need to shift focus beyond twelve spendthrift days of gifting and indulging. In Kenya, we say January is equal to two Februaries. January is for weaning off hangovers, grappling with a surge in temperature and financial needs like school fees for the new school year. We have until Easter to get back on our feet and by that, I mean a holiday to indulge in.
The world needs Christmas in its full meaning. There are extremes: privilege and poverty, survival and sumptuousness, peace and persecution. It is in this globe of atrocities by man, beast and nature alike, that we should embrace the humility of privilege reaching out to poverty. My heart is in the right place, as frugal as I can get, when I reveal that the joy of sharing in Christmas beats the joy of self-serving interests all year. Sharing time, company and gifts from what we have helps fill that vacuum of love that consumerism capitalises on. I welcome a buffet invitation from the richest of people and offer or even expect one from the poorest within my scope.
Sharing has been replaced by giving which translates to buying. We all have a list of people who want but very few who give. Then there are those who give to receive and unfortunately stop giving when none gives back. These lists suffer bias when it comes to monetary allocation of gifts and the subsequent devaluation of time and other intangible gifts. When people save all year to afford a bus ride back home or work all year to afford a few off-days with the family, I can sanction this expenditure as people are availing themselves. Sacrifice and reflection on the gifts of Christ, yes Christ the reason for the season, is paramount. That is why there is a mass where we meet Christ on His terms then we can go give and celebrate what we have received from the source.
Therefore, make sense of your Christmas. Those who have done so will need a sweet memory to anticipate the next one. They will celebrate it daily or more often, as those who embrace Christ will testify. I still welcome the diversity of religious affiliates engaging in the celebration. This is a world rocked by so many divisions such that when tolerance becomes peaceful coexistence, I am not one to argue. Otherwise, we have Boxing Day and we can celebrate the billion dollar big deal that it should be and leave the mass for Christ on its right day.
Edith Adhiambo Osiro,