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Home Editorial Troubling times, but Merry Christmas!!

Troubling times, but Merry Christmas!!

Wed. Dec. 22, 2021

“Come, mek wi bring back di ole fashan Krismos!”

The Scrooge in some of us will want to say, why bother, when there is so much going wrong in the world and in Belize right now; why celebrate Christmas? Why bother to “ketch di feeling” and “the spirit” of Christmas, as if it is some kind of psychedelic drug that turns us into frolicking idiots for a few days, smiling everywhere and sharing pleasant greetings, wishing family and friends, and even strangers, a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! Why bother commemorate the birth over two thousand years ago of a baby who was supposed to save the whole world, when many poor people are still “catching hell” today? Things will be dread when January gets underway anyhow. Then we’ll have to deal with all the problems we had pushed out of our minds for Christmas, plus the extra debts we’ll have to pay for making a few days merry with food and drink and toys for the children. Again, why bother, when Covid-19 with Delta and now Omicron continues to bind us under all kinds of restrictions; the Guatemala claim at the ICJ is still hanging over our heads; corruption is proven rampant in our police force, and likely the same across the board in government and the private sector; while the current administration keeps dragging its feet like its predecessor in passing effective legislation to clamp down on corruption – still no Ombudsman, still no change from CEOs back to Permanent Secretaries, still no revelation of, and action on, the Senate Special Select Committee Report on the Immigration Department, still an Acting C.J. which sounds like a pattern being followed, as with Dr. Manza, nothing doing with the Integrity Commission, and on and on and on? Then there is the sugar crop in crisis with the “big fish” looking to “eat up the small fish;” controversy over cruise ports threatening to land us in court again to face a UK-treaty-backed Lord that has a winning record against our Belize government; the continuing wave of crime and murders; the traffic accidents that won’t stop; and the scheduled reopening of the borders while another Covid wave is waiting for us to drop our guard and become careless. There are enough reasons to say, let’s just call it off; just call off everything, grind our teeth, and tighten our belts until things get better with Covid and the economy… Aahhhh! But you and I know that we won’t. Why not? Because “da Krismos”!!

Many major sporting events have been canceled in Belize over the past almost two years due to Covid-19. Among the cycling cancellations have been two Holy Saturday Cross Country races (2020 and 2021), one Krem New Year’s Cycling Classic (2021), two Belmopan Classics and other smaller races. Only recently has cycling begun to return on the local scene, with a road race last Sunday, and the promised return of the Krem New Year Classic for 2022, although no fans are allowed to congregate. There has been no semipro basketball tournament for two years now; and just this past weekend there was a return to some form of competition with a no-fans amateur basketball tournament at the Mexico Center in the Marion Jones Sporting Complex. Local football was at a standstill from last year following the advent of Covid-19 in March of 2020; there were no PLB, no NAWL, and no district amateur tournaments. Only a couple months ago was there a return to top-level male and female football, as well as at the district level; but the no-fans rule remains in effect for these games.

Of course, dances and other crowd-attracting events have been a no-no since Covid-19 showed its face in Belize; and restrictions have only been slightly reduced in the numbers that can be accommodated in churches, restaurants or clubs.

We could continue going over the many ways, besides the mortalities, that this pandemic has cramped our style and made our lives more difficult and stressful. With our population already suffering a high poverty rate even before Covid arrived, the situation only got worse, as many jobs were lost, salaries were cut, and hunger and malnutrition became ever more prevalent among our poor people. Haad time di ya! So, shouldn’t we just cancel Christmas?

Actually, we can’t; and perhaps we shouldn’t, because it may be a form of therapy to our weary souls. Christmas is in our DNA already. In times past, Belizeans used to say, “Krismos bring i own money.” In these tough Covid times, money is scarce, especially for the low-wage earners and the unemployed. But, ironically, that is all the more reason why our Belizean Krismos cannot be cancelled. The rich and well-off will revel in their splurging and feasting, and the poor will stretch the little they have, along with the hands-out and help-out they receive from better-off friends and relatives and even strangers, as the Christmas spirit infects individuals and commercial organizations and moves them to share gifts of cash or kind with the more needy in our communities. That’s the spirit of Krismos in Belize, and why it can never be cancelled.

That first Christmas, as our religious folks keep reminding us, was not spent lavishly. There was this young carpenter, with a wife about to give birth and no room available in the inn, and it was in an animal stable that they found shelter from the cold night, and in a manger — “an open box … to hold feed or fodder for livestock,” that the baby Jesus, whose birth had been foretold in the Scriptures, was born. No fancy hotel room, no sponge bed, but the meagre accommodations could not stop that first Christmas; and neither can these hard times and tribulations quell the Krismos spirit that is rekindled among Belizeans and folks the world over at this time of year.

A popular selling chant by vendors at our local market is, “Dalla a bag; anybody could buy!” At this time, and in this season of Christmas, the spirit that comes to life and swells the heart of Belizeans all over is one that says, “Anybody can give!” Whether it’s the Salvation Army Kettle at the local supermarkets, the various other charitable organizations, a beggar on the street, or the individual you know to really be in need, the Krismos spirit inspires us all to give what we can to help others have a more enjoyable Christmas, especially the children. And that’s why, “come hell or high water,” Covid or Guatemala, Krismos in Belize can never be cancelled. No matter how bad it gets, the spirit of Christmas is the joy of giving and sharing, and that we will always hold on to.

When “geng bruk” in the old wood-cutting days, Belizean forest laborers came to town to pack all their months of sweat and sacrifice into a couple weeks of wild Krismos celebration, before going back to camp as broke as they were before, owing “their souls to the company store,” the “commissary.” But they had their fun, and their souls and spirits were thus rejuvenated to endure another long drag of “slave labor” in the forest.

Whether it is family time with the opening of presents after church, street-side “jankunu” entertainment in the neighborhood, or rambunctious bramming at somebody’s house that characterizes your preferred form of Christmas celebrations, our Belizean Krismos still embraces the spirit of love and merriment associated with the most historic Christening ever, and this spirit continues to inspire us all with the joy of giving and sharing. Even if we can’t congregate in large numbers due to Covid, we will still celebrate this Krismos 2021.

It’s been a rough year, 2021. Nobody knows what the future will bring. And though many of us have lost loved ones, we are reminded in this season to have hope in the promise of a new life symbolized by the Saviour’s birth, and to all be thankful for the time we get to share with one another on planet earth.

And, as the artist Charles Brown sang, “… the spirit of Christmas cheer, could linger throughout the year, if we would only smile, the way we smile on Christmas day. Let’s spread all the peace on earth we may; lend a helping hand along the way; and when Christmas day is past, we will make the spirit last, if we make each day a Christmas.” Merry Krismos, Belize!!

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