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It is that time of year again

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It is that time of year again, the time when we claim to be celebrating the birth of Christ. But, look how things have changed! It is always amazing to reflect on how far we have moved from the real meaning of the season, and from the traditional celebrations. Activities celebrating the birth of Christ and reflecting the true meaning of Christmas have now become a side show.{{more}} Even the traditional Christmas carols have largely become a thing of the past. December is all about business. Someone once said that Christmas was a Capitalist plot. It is not that the business aspect was never there, but today it seems to be what the season is all about. To most of us, Christmas means shopping. It means throwing out the old or not so old and bringing in the new. The sales gimmicks and higher purchase schemes have become part of this atmosphere, as many try to capitalise on what Christmas now seems to be all about. Those business people for whom things might not have gone as they would have liked during the year hope to make up for what they might have lost or missed. Everybody, in fact, tries to make a killing, some even selling some of the goodies that might have come for them in their barrels, granted some of this might have been prearranged.

Over the past three or four years, one of the things that have stood out during the season is the extent of Sunday shopping. It was not long ago that the very thought of Sunday shopping would have been laughed at. The churches would have been up in arms about it and declared all participants sinners. Today it is becoming a norm and the thousands of Christian people around town on Sundays in the weeks leading up to Christmas tell their own story. About a week or so ago, some business people I spoke to were suggesting that the number of people in town on Sundays does not reflect the quantum of sales at the different stores. I don’t know what the true story is, but Sunday appears now to be one of the biggest shopping days. Undoubtedly, many persons see it as a lime. They go into town to be part of the action. Even pick pocketing appears to be on the rise. Public servants have been granted salary increases and back pay and one expects this to manifest itself in sales and in the extent of shopping. But then there is the issue of the rising cost of living, some of it definitely externally propelled. Jamaica, according to reports, has been witnessing a diminishing number of shoppers. In fact, the Nation newspaper of Barbados quoted a Jamaican Higgler who said in Jamaican creole, “nuttin nah gwain”. Interestingly, amidst all the complaints about high and sky rocketing prices, KFC in Jamaica has recently increased their prices. This struck me because it was only a couple of months ago that I believe our own KFC had introduced what we used to call a ‘cheap sale’ and reduced their prices for that period.

Christmas is, among other things, a time for eating and drinking. But the region had been so beset by rising food prices that a special Caricom meeting had been called to discuss the issue and attempt to do something about it. Some Government leaders in any event had set about attempting to control or reduce food prices in their own way. Those countries which still set a high priority on price control had been intervening in that area. At home, our own Government has increased the number of zero rated items on some items that had been subjected to VAT. Other Caribbean leaders had been calling for an increase in production of locally produced foods and had been urging people to consume more local products. The problem with this is that the prices of home grown food in many cases have also gone up because local producers are subjected to the same price increases in some of the inputs needed for production and also have to face the same high prices as other consumers.

Really, we are all so caught up with celebrating Christmas in the way we do that caution is often thrown out of the window. There is such inner compulsion to spend and to go full out with our celebrations that we suspend our normal judgements and sober methods of operating until after the season. It is only then we fall back on our normal instincts and sense of judgement that have always allowed us to survive. We then begin to reflect on the days ahead and contemplate what they might have in store for us. We have just come out of our annual budget exercise. Have any of us spent any time reflecting on what meaning it might have for us? To what extent and in what ways would it influence how we live and go about our business?

Christmas is, however, a joyous occasion and we try to make it and keep it so in our own varied ways. The visits to friends that were such a prominent and accepted part of the celebrations are now not so pronounced. Although the business aspect of Christmas is a feature in most places, particularly in the capitalist world, the actual celebrations have become here even more culturally bound. We have repackaged nine mornings, but in doing so have stripped it of its spontaneity. The lighting of homes, buildings, Christmas trees and whatever else we light, are not unique to St.Vincent and the Grenadines but we have come up with our own package where lighting ceremonies in different communities are now anticipated Christmas activities and provide another occasion for a lime.

Some of us feel so guilty about how we have divorced ourselves from what Christmas is really all about that we try to make amends by going to Church on Christmas Day, although even this appears to be falling off. Really, Christmas is a feel good affair. Not to have done the things now commonly accepted as being part of the method of celebrating Christmas is to become depressed and to feel that we have lost it all. With all of this we have to imagine what it is like for those who are ill and unemployed. We have to imagine what it is like for those persons who are unable to buy some of what we have come to associate with Christmas. Take ham, to use an example. This has become so much a part of Christmas that even those persons who do not eat pork feast themselves away on it. Really it is as though we cannot enjoy Christmas without being caught up with all the material things that have become so much a part of the season. However, whatever we do, let us remain sober in our thinking and actions as we enjoy the season. We must try to remember those who are not so well off but share the same aspirations about celebrating Christmas. We have also to remember that there is life after Christmas, and a full, hard year ahead of us with its trials and tribulations.

Let me wish all my readers a merry Christmas and happy and productive new year.

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