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Will COVID-19 redefine 2020 Christmas celebration in Ghana and beyond?

A GNA Feature by Eunice Hilda Ampomah
Accra, Dec.20, GNA-Christians in Ghana for centuries, have joined the rest of the world every year to celebrate Christmas on December 25, to remember the birth of Jesus Christ, the Founder of the religion. Christmas, which means “Mass on Christ’s Day or Christ-mass” is observed primarily as a religious and cultural celebration among billions of people around the world.

Background

For centuries, Christmas was celebrated not on a single day, but as a whole season in parts of the world.
Although the date could be a guess, the tradition of observing it goes back to at least the fourth century.
Christmas is often marked with pagan practices such as the use of bringing in a Yule log, decorating with holly and the like, showing of love by Santa Claus, decorating with red flowers and Christmas Evergreen trees.
The “Evergreen Tree” is a symbol of eternal life, “Candles” are a picture that Christ is the Light of the world, “Holly” speaks of the thorns in the crown of Christ and “Red” is a colour of Christmas that speaks of Christ’s blood and death.
“Gifts” are a reminder of the gifts of the Magi to baby Jesus and each of them speaks to a component of His incarnation, Majesty in Life, Bitterest Agony in Death and He as God’s perfect gift to humanity.
“Bells” are associated with ringing out news, or Christ being the good news for Christians.
“Santa Claus” is a Dutch word that means, “Sinter Claus” or “Saint Nicholas” in English. Saint Nicholas was a supposed early Bishop of a church in Asia Minor (the modern country of Turkey).
He was reported to have become aware of some desperate needs of his congregation, and a family having to sell their children into slavery, so he dropped by one night to leave money, which was gold in a stocking on their doorstep.

Activities

On this special season, Christians share Christmas cards, food and drinks, hampers, dresses and footwears among others to families, neighbours, orphanages and other poor and needy individuals.
They are also encouraged to offer gifts to Jesus or the Church, give to those who cannot repay, engage in traditions that point to the ways of Christ, read the Scriptures, and thank God for sun shine.
Christmas celebration is most enjoyed with sharing of nine lessons taken from memory verses in the Holy Bible and carols such as “Silent Night|”, “Mary’s Boy Child”, “Oh Christmas Tree:, “Oh Holy Night”, “The First Noel”, “O Come, O Come Emmanuel”, “Joy to the World” and “Jingle Bells”.
During this season, celebration varies from country to country.

How it is celebrated in Ghana and beyond?
In Ghana, Christians attend church service, wine and dine, visit extended families, visit places of interest such as beaches, movies, malls etc. and dress beautifully for outings.
In the Czech Republic, women put their backs to the house door and throw a shoe over their shoulders on Christmas Eve. If the shoe lands with the heel towards the door, then she might as well cancel her Tinder account and buy up some more cats.
But, if the front of the shoe points to the door, then she kisses her parents goodbye and gets to plan a wedding.
The Norway witnesses’ brooms and similar cleaning items hidden away, and men fire their guns into the night on Christmas Eve.
According to ancient belief, this is primetime for witches and evil spirits to emerge.
Some Armenians choose to fast a week to the Christmas, and then break the fast with a light Christmas Eve meal called « khetum, » which includes; rice, fish, chickpeas, yogurt soup, dried nuts and grape jelly desserts. It is therefore, a perfect time for those who want to lose weight to visit during this season.
A number of South Africans enjoy celebrating Christmas with foods like fried plump, and fuzzy caterpillars (Emperor Moth).
Ukrainians, on the other hand, use fake spider webs to cover their trees, with the hope that it would bring them luck to be prosperous, and never have a financial woe for the next year.
Venezuela also closes the streets of its capital, ‘Caracas’ so that everyone could go to church on Christmas Eve.

Impact of COVID-19 on Christmas

However, the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic has imposed numerous restrictions on people including; bans on social gatherings at restaurants, church services, pubs, night clubs, beaches, work conferences and meetings.
That notwithstanding, people have run at a financial loss as a result of impulse buying ahead of COVID-19 partial or total lockdown directives in respective countries, and parents have had to resort to contracting private teachers for their wards who have been home for months due to the ban on schooling.
Moreover, businesses have fully or partially collapsed and workers have been laid off, while those who were still at work either received half of their salaries or petty allowances for their upkeep.
At offices that employees were working from home and got fully paid, they either missed their usual meeting sitting allowance, car maintenance allowance or transportation allowance and other petty cash funding at the work place, which was supportive to them in varied ways.
Families would miss paying themselves Christmas visits in some countries that still banning traveling and social gatherings, and their usual outing to places of interest.
Families have lost their breadwinners and strongest pillars to COVID-19 and have until now not come to terms with the reality.
Some still wallow in grief, disbelief and hopelessness as a result.
With all these and more, the question is whether Christians who are also victims of the respiratory disease are going to enjoy celebrating the festivity amid the usual resources and rituals they have been denied with the global hit.
In Ghana, the general election, its results and disagreements among political parties, their followers and the Electoral Commission, could also affect the usual ways by which Christians celebrate the yuletide.
Ms Theresah Sekpla, a basic school teacher who receives half of her monthly salary out of extra classes said: “Providing a three-square meal for my five-year old son has even become challenging, so how do I think of getting a new dress for myself this season of going out.”
Nana Yaw Akoto, a former worker at a hotel, who was laid off as a result of the outbreak, said: “I was the bread winner of my family of five, but now that I’m home, the last thing that has come to mind is celebration of Christmas. We have been asked to stay home until things get better to reply. This Christmas to me hasn’t arrived.”
Mrs Mavis Ohene Korang, a seamstress said though she had lost most of her customers’ loyalty as a result of ban on social gatherings, outings, and churches, she was about to see the daylight of Christmas, and to her that was the most important thing.