It is already morning and the sun is beginning to rise. It’s four weeks to Christmas today. The view from my desk is staggeringly beautiful. The skies are a mix of red, wine, orange and white, universal colours of peace and harmony.
Unlike Nigeria where you hear the cocks crow at the break of dawn, in England you hear absolutely nothing of the sort unless you leave near a farm or train station. Nothing? Well, if you listen hard enough, you might hear the sound of ongoing traffic from the A5 two streets away, remote sounds of a police or ambulance siren or perhaps just vehicles leaving the car park of the building where I live. At this time of the morning, it is normally just dark and quiet. No surprises. It is a typical November morning.
Sunrise today is set at 07:31 am. Winter has come as quietly as possible. It needs no announcement. When you can no longer leave your house without a jacket, head warmers, gloves and about three to four layers of clothing, including thermal wear, you know you have entered into the wintry season. No one is ever a veteran of winter. A thought for those living in Calgary, Canada, where temperatures have already dropped to minus 17. Perhaps only those with excess layers of body fat and school children who are somewhat used to walking to schools in their blazers. School children? You see them in their school uniform walking to school every day without a jacket and sometimes, you feel sorry for them. Other times, you are caught up in your own bubble to care.
The percentage of poor children living in Luton is something like 46 per cent. Someone made a call to a radio station recently to talk about the level of poverty in Luton schools and the lady said she heard the story of one child who complained that her leg was hurting. When the pain was investigated, it was discovered that this child had been wearing shoes without soles! Imagine that, the child had practically been running around bare feet. This is winter in 2013. Before you respond with shock, think about the many children you know who go to school in Nigeria without shoes, a proper school uniform and without breakfast. Poverty stinks.
Winter is generally a cold and miserable time of the year for most people. Many people endure severe arthritis during this period, many people feel the pain of their electricity bills each time they turn on the heaters. With most utility companies increasing their prices by up to 10 per cent this winter, no wonder the winter months are generally harsh financially.
With four weeks to Christmas, the town centres are lit with Christmas lights. You can imagine how glorious Oxford circus looks right about now. The Arnedale Centre in Luton and Milton Keynes Mall have Christmas trees taller than the iroko tree, it would seem. Father Christmas at the Arnedale in Luton Mall is set to bring in huge business, but there are no queues yet. All the shops have begun selling Christmas paraphernalia. In a way, it is disgraceful. Christmas has been reduced to what you can buy and what you may be given.
As a matter of fact, the super shop chains like DFS where you get furniture are advertising hard for you to make your orders now to have your orders ready for Christmas. Marks and Spencer are taking orders for Christmas turkey and mince pies. And then we have the pubs and restaurants also taking bookings for Christmas. If you have any inkling that you may be going out around Christmas, now is the time to book.
Last year, many experienced what it was like leaving it too late to book anything. Christmas in the United Kingdom, UK, has been so watered down that it is disgraceful. They have managed cleverly to leave out the reason behind Christmas season. For example, the Santa circus in the Luton Mall has no Baby Jesus. It has no shepherds as well. Just doves, penguins and fake snow flakes.
Right about now is the best time to flee the United Kingdom. Flee? Yes! That technically means to remove oneself from the inconveniences of this weather. Many Nigerians (especially) the pensioners who have lived here all their lives, return to Nigeria till the spring. Other Nigerians are able to leave for a week or two and perhaps even more for Christmas.
In this part, many people spend a fortune on Christmas buying presents and gifts and everything else for their families and racking up huge debts as a result. I know a family that starts the Christmas buying right from August.
Whilst many people are getting ready for Christmas, let’s think about those who would not be celebrating Christmas this year. Starting with those who live in areas decimated by the Al Qaeda-linked group, Boko Haram, in Nigeria, many of them won’t know the joy and perhaps the peace that a season like Christmas brings.
Federal, state and local government workers and those politicians who have benefitted from the largesse of the federal government that routinely turns a blind eye to corruption would no doubt enjoy the season. They would enjoy the expensive holiday trips for themselves and their entourage to the States, UK and anywhere that catches their fancy really. They would enjoy buying the cows and fattening up themselves from the proceeds of their greed.
They would enjoy buying more luxurious and bulletproof cars, caviar, town houses, land and gold in spite of all that they currently have. The rich never seem to have enough. We must not salivate about how the super rich spend or intend to spend this Christmas. To them the rest of us don’t matter anyways. If we don’t have a private jet or the lifestyle to challenge them with, they are not interested.
So, let us really think about those who would not be celebrating Christmas. These are the people we don’t see: the clerks at work, the security guards, street hawkers, handymen, cooks and other. The list is endless. It should include perhaps all those who are less fortunate than others. I know we all struggle but perhaps this Christmas many more would be suffering and smiling. The question is, what are you going to do about it? I hate the inequalities Christmas brings but I love the season nonetheless.
If we can we commit to the idea that this Christmas would be less about ourselves and our appetites and more about others and their needs, that would be great! If we can’t, that’s also fine. Christmas is about sharing and caring after all. Perhaps this season you can be an angel to someone in need.