By Mazi Odera

The truth is that nobody knows for sure the exact day that Jesus Christ was born. The choice of December 25 is symbolic. Pope Julius I chose that day in the 4th century as a subtle way of blighting pagan celebration of Saturnalia in the bud. This has been a consistent feature of Christianity and the logic is simple. By superimposing Christian celebrations on pagan own, especially in the infancy of Christianity, the influence of paganism waned. Even till now, most churches are built in forests that were considered as belonging to evil spirits. This is a proven evangelism tool, and this is the same logic by which Christmas came to overshadow the pagan saturnalia

A yearly ritual, Christmas is again around the corner. It has come to be associated with fanfare of the Epicurean dimension. People now look longingly to its coming. Because of its very nature, it is only a few that even know that Easter is considered as more profound and by far more significant than Christmas.

One of the things that make Christmas popular is the fact that it takes place towards the end of the year, an ideal time for stock-staking, to determine how one has faired for the year. The fact that it is usually a public holiday has contributed to its popularity.

By third week to Christmas, its preparations are usually at a crescendo. Traffic all over the country becomes heavy because of so many people travelling home for the celebration. It is a month of joy, a month of sharing and a month of introspection. It is a month that is particularly gratifying to our parents/relations in the villages, whose food stores will be replenished. It is also a month with a fair share of troubles and tribulations. We have actually seen people who committed suicide because they felt they were denied what it takes to celebrate a worthy Christmas. See these people's reactions whenever Christmas approaches. Some will roll while others will wail on the ground. Their tales are usually that of a year bent on frustrating them and their efforts. As a way of keeping themselves out of circulation, against popular tide, they will decide not to travel home for Christmas, until, perhaps, the economy improves.

Honestly, Christmas drives a lot of people out of their wits. It may sound incredible, but it is true that some people's ideas about Christmas end with a great celebration, where people go and show of. The people that think thus are those that will take all the money they have or even borrow from friends to buy cars for Christmas. They do not end at this. They also spend their last money in buying expensive cloths; jewels and other ornaments. This is the epicurean dimension we earlier talked about.

To some women, Christmas is a time of dressing competition. There are many social occasions lined up; each has its own dress. Women at this time are usually moving showcases of their husbands' prosperity. Even though Christmas is for festivity and is longed for, some women actually decline travelling on the reason that they are not prepared. Preparations in this case have to do with being unable to procure enough cloths to terrorise other women.

Youngsters are not left out. Those in the flower of their maturity, in whom the light of puberty has just been lit, often have in mind to travel and announce to everybody that they have come of age. They dress in inconceivable manners that will drive beholders eyes all the more to wantonness. They will, however, discover that even those in the villages dress likewise. In their inexperience, they strive to be the talk of the town. Some of them, the grown up ones, who have come of age to marry are made to travel home in Christmas, for the possibility of catching the prancing eyes of some eligible bachelors.

Christmas, in its very conception, is supposed to be a positive feast/celebration, but like everything else, it has been corrupted. Wait till January, after the effects of Christmas festivities wear down, you will hear the tales of people suffering from one outrageous disease or the other. Some of these diseases are only metaphysically explicable. Also, by January, most of the housemaid that travelled for Christmas will be sent back to their homes. Tongues will wag; people will guess why the sudden "repatriation" until their tummies start to bulge in four/five months time. So much for Christmas!

Frankly, Christmas is supposed to be a joyful season. Is it? It is a temptation-filled season instead. Come to think about the antics of the boys who are undergoing apprenticeship in different places (umuboyi). From January to December, these people will start saving monies they pilfer from their masters. By December they will have a few thousands. Guess what? They will spend it in such a vulgar manner as if they were going to die the next day. They drink, they spray, they give to girls, they go to parties, and they indulge in other vices common to their ages. After seeing such indulgence, some boys of their age will think that all is now well with them. In their delusions, they will announce defiantly their intentions to stop schooling and take to trading. They do this without realizing that most of those boys actually live like slaves under the tutelages of their masters. So much for Christmas!

Christmas lasts for a few days, but its disturbing memories linger on. At Christmas people make friends. Adolescents meet each other, go to functions together, attend night masses together, and get infatuated with one another. Very soon they go back to their respective schools. The first few months of getting back to schools are usually characterized by tension between studies and the 6th commandment. You will see students who cannot hold the definitions of subjects that have been taught many times retaining the pictures of the fair forms they have seen but once. In attempting to read, the will, rather than see the letters they are reading, be confronted with the images of those fair forms. So much for Christmas!

Christmas is also a period that brings out the true images of some of us. Look at what our church founders do in this season. It has become a season of crusades, with pastors advertising for people to come for miracles, prosperity, signs and wonders. Preaching at this time is usually tailored to remind people who have made it to come and thank the Lord with their tithes. They also remind those who have not made it to come and draw spiritual strength to enable them make it the next year. They all clothe material demands in scriptural quotations.

Christmas is a feast which very conception is noble and spiritually enriching. The fact now is that different forces, which are struggling over its soul, have hijacked it. It is supposed to be a season of joy and peace. It is inconceivable that some people in an attempt to enjoy it do grievous harm to themselves. Some spend recklessly only to turn round and look for where to get money to pay the children's school fees. A lot of things are wrong about our own conception of how Christmas is celebrated. It is yet another season that tests our maturity and calls for circumspection.