Sunday, 21 December 2014

Feed the world? Reflections on Christmas at home and abroad

This year I’m in the UK for Christmas.  Last year I was in Chad.  There are so many differences between these two places in the way that Christmas is prepared for and celebrated.  So sit back and let me take you on a short journey of my ponderings and reflections.

Chad is a predominantly Muslim country (53% ish) but about a third of the population would call themselves Christian.  Therefore all Muslim and Christian festivals are celebrated with a day off from work and gatherings that involve food, family and friends.  This means a fair few public holidays!  So Christmas Day is a public holiday, but there’s no such thing as Boxing Day and so it’s back to work on 26th December.  Have to say it was a bit strange working on 26th December last year!

Another thing that was strange last year was the temperature!  This picture was taken at around midday on Christmas Day last year – the thermometer reads 30C (86F).

One thing I’ve enjoyed this year and that I acutely missed last year is the ‘pre-Christmas build-up’.  Catching up with friends, singing carols and generally getting into the festive spirit!  Feeling the coolness on my face, seeing frost and wrapping up in my thick winter coat that’s been hiding in my Mum’s wardrobe for the past two years.
However, one thing I’m not relishing so much is the commercialism of Christmas and the incessant loop-playing of Christmas ‘songs’ in the shops.  I don’t know whether it’s the fact that I didn’t experience it last year or whether it’s getting worse in some way, but the materialism surrounding this time of year in the UK is at fever pitch.  I’ve had to ask the same question: ‘did this happen here last Christmas, as it didn’t in 2012?’ about a fair few things this year, one of which was the craziness surrounding ‘Black Friday’ and people fighting over TVs and the like in supermarkets.  What was that all about?!  

I mentioned Christmas songs.  There’s one in particular that I’ve thought a lot about.  The title of this blog post gives a big clue as to which one.  I listened to the earlier versions in Chad (i.e. not the version released this year, which has had some of the words changed - personally think that was a good idea).  Next time you hear this song, try to imagine listening to it whilst living and working in Africa.  It definitely puts a different perspective on the lyrics.  If you want to know my thoughts, ask me!

The saddest thing about being in the UK at this time of year is the dawning of the realisation that Jesus’ birth is apparently little recognised by many people.  It’s all about shopping, food, Father Christmas/Santa, presents, Christmas parties and days off from work.  I’m not intending to be bah-humbug here!  Of course it’s great to celebrate this time of year with people.  It’s just not great to see how materialism and commercialism can drown out the real reason for why we’re celebrating.  The birth of Jesus was, and still is, great news!

Wishing you joy and peace as we celebrate the birth of our Saviour, Jesus Christ.

Christmas dinner on the Hotchkin's veranda,
Christmas Day evening 2013

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