Another year, another Christmas; in many respects, the song remains the same.
For Christians, of course, the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ is a sacred time of joy, reflection and hope for the future, with the sense of renewal and expectations of better things ahead, reinforced by the coming of the New Year. The profane and prosaic realities of life in Guyana are held at bay for a short while.
For Guyanese as a whole, regardless of religion, creed or ethnicity, the yuletide season has always been and continues to be one of festivity and goodwill, as we celebrate not only this landmark in the Christian calendar but also our unique heritage. True, the spirit has sometimes been dampened by the politics of the past 50 years or so. But as we seek refuge from our daily cares and the political, economic and social woes that bedevil the nation, the resilience of the Guyanese people, fortified by family reunions, friendship, fellowship, traditional food, the familiar carols and songs and, in many cases, strong drink, not to mention a powerful sense of nostalgia and sometimes logic-defying optimism, always manages, somehow, to withstand negativity and hardship, allowing most of us to forget our problems, if only temporarily.
With due regard to the other major religions practised in Guyana and their respective festivals, Christmas is, when all’s said and done, one of those times of the year when the true Guyanese spirit of generosity, compassion and joie de vivre is on display and most of us, consciously or subliminally, embrace our common humanity. But, as the old saying goes, Christmas comes but once a year; unfortunately, the mood cannot and does not last.
We are, after all, celebrating this Christmas in the shadow of the prorogation of Parliament on November 10 by the President, followed by his promise to announce – nay, gift the nation, like some parody of Santa Claus – a date for general elections “early in 2015” so as not to “disrupt and dampen the Christmas spirit” and so that “Guyanese can get on with the business of having an enjoyable Christmas.”
Well, Guyanese have enjoyed and will continue to enjoy their Christmas season, come what may and in spite of the President’s ill-considered suggestion that we are incapable of celebrating Christmas and thinking of serious matters at the same time. And even though we will have had our spirits lifted by the essential Christmas message of peace and goodwill to all, the more thoughtful amongst us will be looking forward to the New Year with mixed feelings and a fair degree of speculation.
The garbage, environmental degradation, the fear of flooding, the rampant and deadly crime, domestic violence and child abuse, the carnage on the roads, poverty and its debilitating effects on people, the general lack of civility in public life, corruption and cronyism, the whole litany of woes afflicting this beautiful country, none of this will disappear overnight. And we know it all too well.
Perhaps this explains to a certain extent the refuge we seek in the spirit of Christmas and the gusto with which so many of us overindulge at this time of the year. Quite simply, we need the release offered by the season.
Now, however, many may actually be entertaining the thought that change is in the air. Some may be experiencing a general feeling of foreboding that things can only go from bad to worse; others pray and hope that things will improve. But none of us can predict when and how change will take place. We suppose people’s hopes and fears will depend on their respective perspectives and whom they wish to believe and trust. One thing is the same as it ever was though: we will need strength to rise above adversity and be ready for the challenges that lie in wait. In this sense too, the song remains the same.