Would you say Christmas celebrations – the habits, customs and traditions – have changed over the years? I certainly do. The reason for the season, the birth of Our Lord and Saviour has been almost completely obliterated by commercialisation.
Even the traditional Christmas Eve Mass is no longer held at midnight but anytime between 7 p.m. and midnight, mainly because of the various kinds of lawlessness which take place in the country after dark. This undermines the fellowship, joy, fervour, felicitousness and hilarity of the season.
Religion, the cornerstone of the celebrations, is gradually being overrun by modernity to the detriment of the real feeling of the season—one of warmth, love, friendliness and fun. The fact is that Christmas today is unlike yesteryear in many ways.
Today there are many office parties or luncheons; gift exchanges in many offices and impromptu ‘limes’. Today everything about Christmas is commercialised—sales and specials abound in every sphere, large and not so large malls; supermarkets and groceries; stores, department and small ones, furniture and gifts—all competing for the elusive Christmas dollar.
Remember when preparing the family’s Christmas ham was a big happening with the entire family gathered in the backyard to ‘supervise’ the boiling of the ham, which was pried from its British covering and placed in a ‘pitch oil’ tin over a fire, while adults enjoyed their drinks—without chasers.
Remember those large jars containing ginger beer and sorrel which were staples for the season and remember how they were placed in the sun every morning and picked up every evening for weeks if not months. Those jars were seen at almost every house and made some of the most authentic and tasty drinks.
That, to a large extent has been replaced by the slew of bottled and sometimes packaged drinks. So where sorrel and ginger beer were served as Christmas delicacies, now they are available year-round but certainly taste much different from our mother’s.
Branches with cotton
Remember too, that as children, the first week of the Christmas vacation was taken up in all the house and yard preparations—all the glasses and mugs in the cabinet had to be washed and put back; all the chairs and sometimes the dining table had to be scrubbed in preparation for varnishing; cushion covers and curtains had to wait to be hung on Christmas Eve so next morning they stand out in all their glory for the neighbours to see.
We did not have the privilege of having Christmas trees which need to be decorated and lit, though some people did have in their houses branches covered with cotton and slightly decorated which served as Christmas trees.
As a little boy I remember getting a little caps gun and two rolls of caps as a gift from Father Christmas (Santa Claus). And while I was happy to get it, I started shooting up everything in sight and within an hour I became sad—all the caps were finished, but I still went around shooting at everything—without any caps.
Such a far cry from today’s Santa Claus gifts of glimmering watches, computers and several other electronic devices, cell phones and an entire gamut of games. Gone too, are the days of a single gift and children today are gifted with several presents.
So, the case is clear why Christmas today is so different from generations past. There is need to bring Christ back into Christmas, so we as Roman Catholics could show the secular world what is the real reason for the season—celebration of the birthday of our Saviour Jesus Christ.