06 December 2012

Do they know it's Christmas?

Once upon a Christmas, quite a long time ago, I had just returned from working with a charity in an East African desert. Two countries tore themselves apart there, while people who cared nothing for either the war or Christmas lived precariously from day to day. Weapons detonating every day cost more than the price of a lifetime's food and medicines for the populations of both countries. Before that, in West African mountains, I watched members of nomadic tribes pledge eternal loyalty by giving five grains of wheat.
Back here in the rich world where the weapons come from, I wandered along the main shopping street of a peaceful town. Advertising invited me to buy a battery powered toy for an amount which would feed a desert family for five years, a watch whose price would keep a mountain tribe in luxurious security for life. A sheet of gift wrapping paper could cost more than a year's starvation food.
The world seemed to disappear slowly down the wrong end of a telescope. For a time, I confused Christmas with what had been done to it; I lost my perspective for a while, and it would be some years before I start to find it again.
I'm an atheist who doesn't celebrate Christmas (and Christmas is a pagan, not Christian, festival at root), but the essential message of Christmas nevertheless seems to me an important one. Unfortunately, the message of Christmas can be very hard to find amongst the tawdry mess of christmas as I see it around me from mid November onwards.


Gayle said...

Christmas begins in September here in the U.S, when the stores rearrange their shelves to make room for aisle upon aisle of Christmas decorations. Some stores begin playing carols then, while others wait till the beginning on November. By the time the day arrives many of us are "Christmased out". Our corporations worship the Golden Calf, and our consumers sacrifice green paper on their alters.

This time of year has become very depressing.

Geoff said...

Christmnas begins at Buckfast Abbey here in Devon sometime in August to catch the summer visitors. The reindeers sing at an out of town store early November. I have tried in vain to pull out the plug but cannot reach it!
A time of year for "peace and goodwill to all" ?
Do I hear someone "turning in a grave" ?

Geoff said...

PS from Geoff.
A quote from a comment "....there is always money available to kill people but always a shortage to keep them alive."

Clarissa Vincent said...

Thank you for pointing out your observations, not based on cynicism but on experience (the African values). Interesting how a festival such as Christmas contains it's own critique. Without Christmas I would not have read your comment about European values compared to African.