Was Christmas Part of the Change?

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— By Millicent from Kenya

A few days to Christmas and I can clearly say it is nothing close to the Christmas back in the day. Christmas used to be the in thing growing up. Shops and malls would have Christmas decorations from the first day of December, the radios would pay Christmas carols and in churches there would practice Christmas carols every day for the big day. If there was a voting process for the best holidays, it would shame the other holidays. Growing up in the city, I never had the chance to celebrate it in the rural areas like my other friends. A few days to Christmas, my other friends would pack and leave with their families for rural areas for Christmas celebration. Since I have never celebrated one in the rural area they would say it is crowned with feasting and slaughtering of animals. In most rural areas, farming and cattle rearing is the source of livelihood hence slaughtering animals is one of the ways to celebrate this day.

People like me who celebrated it in the city, it meant new clothes, shoes and a lot of eating. The clothes part is what many cannot forget especially with the memories from the photographs. Back in the day, our parents would buy similar clothes for all the siblings. Girls would look-alike and so would boys. Food was in plenty. Plenty meant that all the cuisines from our tribe and the country in general would be part of the menu. Chapatis would always be the highlight of this day. Chapati is a type of bread consisting of a dough that is made in round shapes and cooked on a pan with little oil. During the year, chapatis were often cooked on Sundays or when there were visitors. It is only during Christmas that it would come in plenty with no limitation. To top things up, Christmas would not be complete without the kids being taken for a day out at the amusement parks. Christmas was indeed a wonderful holiday. The whole family would unite on this day and the smiles on everyone’s face would indeed prove that it was worth the wait.

Since you have a clear picture on how Christmas used to be back in my days let me also describe to you the current Christmas to know why they are nothing close. Lately they have neglected it unlike before. Very few people are paying attention to it from corporate, businesses and individuals. Businesses that would paint and put up Christmas decorations no longer do that. Could they be so money minded that they think it is an expense? People who used to travel upcountry no longer do that and they have jumped into my family’s bandwagon of staying in the city during the festivities. If you listen carefully you will hear them blaming the high cost of transportation as their reason for staying behind. It is not bad to stay behind but what will the people in the rural areas think about them? That they have abandoned them? Anyway, it is not in my place to dig deep on this.

New clothes are no longer a mark for this great day. People are always buying them with the pop up of new fashion so there is no need to wait for Christmas to do it. On chapatis which used to be the landmark for this day, they are now available everywhere and anytime losing their uniqueness. Years have revolutionized what Christmas used to be. The touch of family, great meals, carols and decorations are no longer there. It is nearly being turned to a normal off day where you take a two days rest and get back to work. I wish more would be done to restore the happiness and memories that came with this day. The lost glory of Christmas to be returned. It would be a shame if future generations in my society will not get to experience Christmas the Kenyan way. Hearing them say “Kenyans used to celebrate Christmas like this” will be a heartbreaking statement. I know change is inevitable but it is best we preserve each and every little touch that we can.

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The Power of Light and Love

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— By Francis from Sierra Leone

Holidays always seem to mean a lot to women and they certainly do to my nan, Cecilia. This is a time for giving gifts and shopping. Numberless of trinkets – ranging from booklets, bracelets, and bowls to charm are distributed. For her, the giving of gifts is a personal task, “an opportunity for engraving my spirit on the minds and hearts of my people.” Shopping for both these gifts and household goods, she stresses not fashion but durability and price. Shoes are bought for more days of wear in every pair.

Surely, this is a very special time of the year. In schools, children grow excited at the prospect of what is to come. Stores are jammed with shoppers, streets explode with light and messages of good-will abound. Even when people say hello to each other, there’s a special feeling in it; a bright and warm feeling that pervades our days.

Yes, we are at a very special time, indeed! And the question of what fills our cold winter days with such light and warmth is unavoidable.

For some of us it is Christmas, and for some of us it is Chanukah. Whatever the holiday, the feeling goes beyond any religious boundary and unites us all in a feeling of affection for each other.

The Jewish holiday of Chanukah is called the “Festival of Lights” – a candle is lit at night for seven nights to commemorate a miracle of light. The Christian holiday of Christmas has been called a “Fest of Love” – It commemorates the birth of Jesus, who has been called the Prince of Love.

With these, we have a combination of the feast of Light and Love; two qualities that should fill the world and the world becomes a better place for it.

What a need there is for both then. The world is filled with corners of darkness where lurk the demons of ignorance and prejudice and hate. These are corners where the light of knowledge and truth has not yet reached. What a bright and happy world we could have if the light of learning is brought to every crevice.

Each day we read, see and/ hear the tragedies that hate and fear bring about – horrors perpetrated in hate which destroys, tears down and mutilates. What a need there is for love. What a change there would be if we could reach each mind twisted by hate and replace that hate with love.

Light and Love; Love and Light – in combination, what wonders could they not produce? They could build a world where kindness would be the rule, concern for each other would be a part of daily life, and individuals would grow and thrive and contribute and find happiness and compassion.

If, for this one time of the year our lives can be filled with happiness and warmth and a spirit of giving – a spirit of light and love – then surely we can work at making it last throughout the year as well. Let’s have the courage to believe that this is not a dream; not a fantasy. Let’s us believe that it is a possibility within our grasp.

What a world THAT would be!