Christmas: A time for reflection
As families get ready to gather and enter the season of festivity, forgetting their problems, it is also time to reflect on how to improve the New Year
Christmas is nothing new. The first recorded Mass of Christ, the conventional date which was chosen to celebrate the birth of Yeshua (better known as Jesus, from the Greek transliteration of the Hebrew name, Iesous) was in Rome in 336. It is generally accepted that the real birth of Jesus was in April or May, the year being the subject of discussion, between the 28th year of Emperor Augustus Caesar (born Caius Octavius Thurinus) which would be 1AD and any time after 6 BC.
Sorry I'm late? Actually I'm 4 years early
So next time they ask you to apologize for being late, tell them you are in fact more or less 4 years early. The Christians based their traditions and rituals on previous practices from pre-Christian or Pagan times, so the choice of December 25 comes in line with the Roman Festival of the Winter Solstice. Pagan peoples believed that the Earth and the Underworld came together on the same level at certain times of year and this was a time of the passing of spirits, possibly being the origin of some central European traditions in which Krampus, a half-goat and half-Demon, comes to punish naughty children.
December 25 is also near to the Roman festivity of Saturnalia, held on December 17, with celebrations lasting for a week, to celebrate the God Saturn. On this day gifts were exchanged, the masters served their slaves at the table and it was a time for feasts and drinking.
Implanting Christmas on the Roman festivities, mixing the new cult with the old, would not have been difficult. And so it was with the areas outside the Roman Empire, in northern Germany and Scandinavia where the time of Yule (Geola, Joy) was celebrated in the darkest months of December and January. Yuletide, the time of joy or merry making, was divided into aerra geola (before the Celebration) and aeftera geola, the time after the Celebration, meaning January.
Whatever the origins, they are all basically the same in Europe - festivals of light, joy in times of darkness, festivities which serve to bring communities together in times of hardship (no agricultural activity, no produce, who has stored enough to last through the Winter, who needs help). Fast forward two thousand years, from Saturnalia and Yuletide, here we are once again on the eve of another festive season.
In Islam, charity is one of the fundamental rules (two point five per cent of your savings should be given to charitable causes); in Christianity, the precept is that people should help the neighbor. The idea is the same in many other religions, schools of thought which define collective human behavior.
And how are we doing in terms of collectiveness and collective sharing? Well, enough money is spent each and every year on weapons to kill people, drugs to destroy families and sexual exploitation to ruin entire lives, to heal our collective wounds many times over, to eradicate poverty forever and to construct a world in which we can all live together happily, instructed, having access to the same resources, medicines, treatment, chances, opportunities. A world in which every child, whatever her/his origin or race or color or creed, can grow as an equal with anyone else.
This is totally within our grasp, this is so easy to achieve, the only reason why it has not been translated into reality being that the lobbies which control the elected politicians who pretend to represent us do not allow it to happen, because they make money through lies and conflict. Until we out their lies and fabrications, such as the recent case in Ukraine, check out Hunter Biden (son of ex-US Vice-President Joe Biden) and Ukrainian energy lobbies. Then when we tell the truth, they call it fake news in the social media and try to pretend they are serious, while spreading lies by the day such as SKY NEWS' attempt this week, running along the lines of Ukraine and Russia being at war since Russia invaded 5 years ago.
Nothing about the Fascist Putsch in Kiev, ousting the democratically elected President, nothing about subsequent calls for Death to Russians and Jews, by the same Fascist forces, nothing about the massacre of Russian-speaking Ukrainians by Fascist thugs in South-East Ukraine and nothing about the people of this region (Donbas) to protect themselves and their children. Their lies are an insult to the Russian-speaking cleaning lady who was murdered with telephone wire, strangled just because she was doing her job in the wrong place at the wrong time. Where is this story in the western press? Where is this story among the Ukrainian elites? What has Poroshenko said about this story?
Maybe if we all used this period to reflect on how we can make things better, collectively, making a resolution to choose at least one cause in the New Year and support it, and fundamentally, to question everything they tell us, understanding that today the media is being used as a weapon to spread intolerence and hatred, the fuel for war, we can make a start.
We do not want war, we want to get along with one another; we do not want to hate each other, we wish to share cultures and to understand and celebrate our differences. This is my Christmas Message for 2018. I wish my readers, supporters and those who hate my guts and send me death threats just because I am honest enough to say what I think the very best for this season, and for their families and loved ones, and a Happy New Year full of good health, good luck, opportunities and all they wish for.
In Russia, Grandfather Frost (Ded Moroz) and his grand-daughter, Snegurochka, the Snow Girl, bring presents to good children, on New Year's Eve. This inclusive and gender-equality example, embedded in Russian tradition, can be translated into a message of global goodwill.
Suppose people take the reins of power into their hands, informing themselves and questioning the official lines of events, understanding that we are all and should all be equal, from birth, man or woman, black or white, Moslem, Buddhist or Christian or whatever, rich or poor, beggar or thief?
Let us embrace each other and celebrate our differences, let us learn each others' languuages (now I am teaching myself Mandarin Chinese), let us research our varieties in terms of religion, in terms of culture, music, literature, plastic arts, let us embrace our neighbor whether he or she is a he or a she or an it, a transsexual, a gay, a lesbian, a queer, a bisexual, black, white, green, blue, pink... these are labels which do not define the "who".
My project for the New Year is to bring gastronomy center stage and to use cooking and sharing food as a means to bring cultures and peoples together. I apologise if this makes certain people feel awkward, but I prefer to keep the festive season festive, think positively and leave the rest for afterwards.
I hope what when my day comes, I am not more or less four years early.
God Bless, Merry Christmas.
*Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey has worked as a correspondent, journalist, deputy editor, editor, chief editor, director, project manager, executive director, partner and owner of printed and online daily, weekly, monthly and yearly publications, TV stations and media groups printed, aired and distributed in Angola, Brazil, Cape Verde, East Timor, Guinea-Bissau, Portugal, Mozambique and São Tomé and Principe Isles; the Russian Foreign Ministry publication Dialog and the Cuban Foreign Ministry Official Publications. He has spent the last two decades in humanitarian projects, connecting communities, working to document and catalog disappearing languages, cultures, traditions, working to network with the LGBT communities helping to set up shelters for abused or frightened victims and as Media Partner with UN Women, working to foster the UN Women project to fight against gender violence and to strive for an end to sexism, racism and homophobia. A Vegan, he is also a Media Partner of Humane Society International, fighting for animal rights. He is Director and Chief Editor of the Portuguese version of Pravda.Ru. He is an official translator, a coach, a consultant and a professor.