Thursday, January 17, 2013

A Simple Christmas

Spent my 2012 Christmas on Sudest Island, Milne Bay Province, PNG
Christmas starts for many people as a time of great expectations. I think of Christmas as a time of affirmation of our lives through the birth of Jesus Christ, the Son of God made man. It is the humbleness and simplicity that define this experience. It is not the pretense, pompous expressions of the rich and wealth of a person, but the expressions of celebrating the simple things in life. Most important of all is Life, which many take for granted. 

As I write this in Port Moresby I am wishing that the many Christmas celebrations I had with my cousins, uncles, aunties, and many Bubus in the village unfolds again for me. Those years in my youth were times I spent more in the village without care about how much money we need, Christmas gifts, luxurious holidays, or those wild drinking parties and night-outs in the clubs. In some sense the simple village holidays were always eventful and sometimes outlandish, but civil according to our mentors. We were a civil bunch they say.

The Christmas is a time to also pause in our busy lives for a well-deserved break.  Many of us have been working full steam this year. We need this time to pause for that one week between December 25th and January 02nd to find some quality time to be with our families and relatives. It is a time to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays.

It is a time for us to celebrate a renewal of spirit in the life we have through the celebrations we accept in the Christian calendar as the Birth of baby Jesus in Jerusalem. It is a time of peace and happiness for all Christians.

Jesus was born in the manger with no crib for a birth. This is part of a Christmas Carol that I can never get out of my head as I think about the simple and humble birth of Jesus. It is true that sometimes we forget that and make Christmas look so expansive and beyond the simplicity to which the reference was originally made. I think this is part of the problem with today’s modern celebrations with so many complicated styles of celebrating Christmas.

Let me tell a story. I spent as many as five Christmas living in the United States of America. One of the pleasures of Christmas was to drive around the metropolis admiring the light works people go through the trouble of putting up on their houses and yards. The more competition the more bigger they became every year. In our pleasures of seeing the best light shows we forget that it is about the simple beginning of the birth of Jesus. The light shows were not really about the birth of Jesus, they were about something else that now I can only think of as modern exhibition of material fetish in fluorescence display. 

The celebration of the simple birth of Jesus is often felt with the sharing of presents among friends and families on Christmas Eve. Around the presents are open and by 11.00pm a brunch is had among those who shared presents. The afternoon is spent attending organized activities such as sports or visit to a zoo or other events, and perhaps a dinner together. The next day is, of course, the Boxing Day when shops are open for return of goods purchased, which have some default or that can be refunded for cash value. 

Our society Papua New Guinea is also changing so fast. The way we celebrated Christmas before may not be the same now.  We may also forget celebrating Christmas in a simple way that gives more meaning to that experience than if we indulge ourselves in expansive Christmas celebrations.

In many PNG villages people will celebrate the Christmas together with some of the traditional cultural events that are held at this time of the year. It could be canoe racings, yam harvests, traditional singsings, or peace-making ceremonies. Some communities have long observed the entire month of December as important to the end of the year festivities to mark various important events or achievements of the tribe or village or community as a whole.  It is an ideal time for such celebrations. Many people return home for vacation during that time. It makes sense to celebrate together with everyone home for Christmas.

It is important that people return to the simple things in life during the Christmas period. In whatever way Christmas is celebrated it is important for people to maintain a sense of simplicity and humbleness. Keep things simple and enjoy the holiday period this year.

I do hope the Christmas period will be stress free for many people who are on their recreational leave. Try not to over-commit yourself with many of the trappings of holiday obligations. Returning to work in the New Year with a zero balance in your account is a stress inducing experience. Remain committed to basics and simple expressions of yourself. 

In many of our communities the spirit of Christmas in the Christian sense of it will prevail. Many people will follow the rituals of Christmas with their hearts and minds. In the same token many will also offer their prayers and help to those who need help. One of the special gifts anyone can give to those who are in need is a little kindness and love.

In whatever way we choose to celebrate Christmas and remember the birth of Jesus Christ, we must do so with humility, humbleness, and in simplicity.  We need to remind ourselves that Christmas is a time to renew our faith and review the life we have lived so far.

Have we followed the path that we were meant to take or have we veered off the road to where we did not want to go.

It is a time for reflections of our own purpose for being here on this earth. We need to ask ourselves what God wants us to do.


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