Monday 25th December, 2006

Debbie Jacob
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My Christmas wish

And so this is Christmas. The shopping days are over, the turkey is in the oven, the gifts have been sprung from their shiny paper, and there’s nothing left to do but soak in the silence of the moment when hopefully someone will realise the purpose of this momentous day.

When you think about it, Christmas is simply a day to celebrate the birth of a baby and the hope that baby brought to the world. Every baby brings hope to the world, and so we can all relate to Christmas on that level.

For Christians it is a very special baby, the son of God. For non-Christians it is simply a baby, a prophet perhaps. But a baby is a miracle in itself, a blank slate in which life is about to etch its meaning.  

All holy days that we celebrate as holidays—Christmas, Divali, Eid—have an unmistakable sense of spirituality and that, too, binds us together on each other’s holy days.

But holy days provide more than hope and faith and legends that sustain us in hard times. They provide a sense of tradition. By observing this day—even if it is from a distance as a non-Christian who simply basks in the glory of a day off from work—we participate, vicariously as it might be, in a 2006-year-old tradition.

Religion aside, we build our own traditions around this day. The food we eat—pastelles and turkey and ham—and ginger beer and sorrel are all a part of our tradition. We are experts at creating culinary traditions and observing them as well. 

Isn’t that right, Lord Kitchener, who must be sitting by a pan tuner in Heaven and looking down at those paranderos who beat their bottles with a spoon and sing, “Drink a rum and a ponche a crema...”

Yes, Moma, moma, your son is lonely in England and wants to come back home to toast his great fortune at being from a tropical island warm in spirit, warm at heart.  

This, after all, is the land of celebrations and commemorations. We glide from Eid and Divali to Christmas, New Year’s, Carnival and Hosay. We carry many fine religious traditions and we string them together through the year like great fields of Divali lights or great strings of Christmas lights.  

We do see the light in so many ways. Yes, we allow ourselves to be bamboozled by sleazy politics, but we know deep in our hearts it is wrong to divide us and take our traditions away from us.

Sometimes we close our eyes to those traditions that sadly vanish from our sight, but we’ll get it right. We’ll wake up one day and say enough is enough.

We are losing our national airline this year and though there are those who might look forward to the new Caribbean Airlines, there are many I am sure who, like me, think a humming-bird could never replace a pan. There is sadness in the loss of an airline that represented a 66-year-old tradition.  

All around us traditions are being knocked down. Every time another house representing a certain period of architectural history is torn down, we suffer as a nation. We lose a piece of history and in so doing we lose some tradition.

No nation can afford to lose its traditions. That is what holidays like Christmas remind us of, and we should not lose sight of that in the post-Christmas and New Year’s parties where we are tempted to drown our memories in rum.

Yes, we have a long way to go so that we could stand on solid ground and honour all our traditions as they should be honoured. But we have much to celebrate this Christmas as well.

So far, we have been a nation in which religion brings us together. We are not a nation that allows religion to divide us and that makes us bigger and better than many large countries of the world. We are experts in understanding the beauty and dignity of religious tradition, and now we have to guard our own cultural traditions with that type of religious fervour.

Carnival is around the corner and Government has seen fit to take the Carnival stage in the Savannah from underneath us and tell us, “Be happy just to dance in the streets. We’re giving you something better. We’re giving you a new stage. The Savannah never was a part of the Carnival tradition.”

But people perceive that Savannah stage as a part of Carnival tradition. To demolish that stage without a twinge of understanding about how to build on tradition is sacrilegious; it violates the sacredness of a cultural tradition. If the people feel it is tradition, then it is. Government can’t change that.

My Christmas wish is for all of us to place a greater value on tradition in the coming year. Tradition is not something you can put in a box and wrap in shiny paper and a fancy bow, but it warms the heart more than the greatest present you can think of in this world.

Tradition is what binds us together. It gives us a sense of individuality and it gives us a sense of belonging to our own immediate culture and it gives us a sense of belonging to something bigger in this world.

Christmas starts in the heart and warms the caring, giving, loving side of us. 

It helps us to reach out to others and share our warmest feelings. It connects us to a network of friends and family; then it connects us to all those people in the world who share our religion.

We’re all different. No two countries celebrate Christmas in the same way. We are special.

Merry Christmas, everyone.

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