Wednesday 24th May, 2017
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Reflections on yuletide 2016

Reflections on yuletide 2016

As activities marking 2016 Christmas season wind down, let us cast a look back on how one of the greatest events on earth was celebrated or better said marked or still more apt, commemorated. Millions of people look forward eagerly to the Christ­mas season and many an event are planned around it, all aimed at making the Christmas more ‘en­joyable’. Many used to save for the season, from January to December. For many, all their toils are geared towards it. Thus many a local con­tributory scheme is weaved around it, the aim being to have enough money to celebrate during the yule­tide, no matter how seemingly poor one is. This 2016 however, reces­sion which later turned to depres­sion by fourth quarter of 2016 put a spanner in the works so to speak, disrupting the normal savings and contributory schemes. Thus with delayed, irregular and fraction­al payment of salaries and wages coupled with decreasing purchas­ing power, there was little or noth­ing left to save during the year. Most people were preoccupied with be­ing able to feed themselves which for many has been reduced to hav­ing two rather than the normal three square meals a day. MMM, the ponzi scheme which many had banked on for a super Christmas like the sure banker pools betting, gave its Nigerian clients an unfore­seen upper cut that knocked them off balance by announcing that there would be no payment in the all-important month of December.
In normal times, private-sector employees used to receive bump­er salaries in December in which is embedded a Christmas bonus to enable them celebrate the yule­tide. These organisations used to organise a cocktail of events, nota­bly, end of year parties that includes rewarding outstanding employees with bumper gifts. Not in 2016. Grappling with an acute shortage of foreign exchange, most manu­facturing firms focused their at­tention on how to scale the high hurdle of getting forex for essen­tial raw material imports than an­ything else; in brief, how to survive the hard times. Some closed shops while those that managed to keep their heads above the turbulent wa­ters resorted to mass retrenchment. The normal exchange of hampers and other exotic gift items, includ­ing cows and cattle were sparse in 2016. Unemployment queue is lengthening and millions of work­ers in both public and private sec­tors did not get their December salaries. For those who were lucky to get some fraction of their sala­ry arrears in December, the banks played a fast one on them in their hour of need by rationing out cash sat ATM machines. They could not get all the cash they desired. Those with cheques could not cash mon­ey either as they were told to come back after the Christmas holidays, on Wednesday, December 28. In all it was a relatively ‘cash less’ Christ­mas 2016.
In normal times you begin to smell the scent of Christmas when the month of December and con­comitant harmattan season set in while streets and organisations, both big and small companies, are decorated with Christmas bun­tings early December. Some did not hang up their decorations un­til the 19th. Most simply dusted up their old decorations and the de­cors were somewhat scanty, not as elaborate and eye-catching as used to be the case. The reason for this is not farfetched – a cash strapped economy.
It used to be the case that pri­vate commercial entertainment outfits literally sprang up from all corners in December, organising a variety of shows for a handsome fee where top rated artists perform and people dance away their sor­rows or better said, momentarily wish their worries away by gyrat­ing from sunset to sunrise. These days however, State governments have stepped in and are taking over the entertainment business, by or­ganising similar fiestas for free for residents in their states. Needless to add that in this ‘cash less’ 2016 Xmas the masses turned their gaze to the government-sponsored free cultural carnivals. Among them is the notable Calabar Carnival dur­ing which time all civil servants compulsorily proceed on their an­nual leave in December. There is also Imo carnival with the gover­nor giving its workers four weeks holidays from December 19, 2016 to January 19, 2017. Many other states had a night of Christmas car­ols at which popular local and na­tional artists were invited to thrill the people. Of course, there was the Lagos’ One Night Fiesta held in the old five divisions of the State with Nigeria’s popular artists in at­tendance. Anambra State’s 20th an­niversary was rounded off in De­cember with a Christmas jam.
In the south east, indigenes of various communities are required to come home to their homesteads every four years. It is termed ‘Mass Return’. For Mass Return 2016, I observed that the villages were not over flowing with people as used in normal times. Quite a number of people did not return, prefer­ring to pay the associated penalty for absence at meetings, their ex­cuse being that the times are ‘hard’. Still all the communities had their cultural and traditional festivals, conferment of chieftaincy titles, town meetings and other social events that characterise the yule­tide here in south eastern Nige­ria. Governor Willie Obiano had a busy time as he was listed as spe­cial guest of honour in all the cul­tural festivals by town unions in Anambra State. And he personally graced all of them, for the obvious reason apparently, to curry elector­al favour as governorship election is due this 2017
Yes, many of us attended church services on Christmas Eve, Christ­mas day, December 31 and on 2017 New Year Day to, as we put it, ‘worship our God’. In our hearts of hearts, many of us went to plac­es of worship to offer prayers to God asking Him for one favour or other. Still some there were who went there to thank Him genuine­ly for the grace inherent in the in­carnation of Jesus Christ here on earth over 2,000 years ago. It is not enough to attend church servic­es. We do not worship or serve the Lord by attending church or per­forming other religious obligations per se. True worship of God we are told, consists of keeping His Di­vine Laws, through which we en­noble our environment and spread peace around, whether we are rich or poor. In so doing, we prove our reverence for the Almighty. Ideal­ly a good part of the Christmas sea­son should be spent on reflecting on and thoroughly understanding the message of Christ, the Will of God, rather than enmeshing our­selves for nearly the whole period as is now the case, in useless chat­ting, eating, drinking and party­ing. Christmas is a spiritual festi­val and so should be a season for sober, spiritual reflection.
Ikeano wrote this piece from Eg­bengwu, Nimo, Anambra State via: vikeano@yahoo.co.uk

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