Yuletide: A season of kindness and gifting

Christmas gift box being passed from one hand to another
Photo: © Andy Dean / 123RF Stock Photo

Christmas is a fact of life, and history records this eponymous event of the Christian era which commenced a little more than 2000 years ago in a stable in Bethlehem. It is also recorded that Christmas was first celebrated in 354 A.D., over 300 years after the birth of Christ. Then the Church decided that December 25 should be celebrated as the official Birthday of Christ. It was also hoped people would forget their old customs. But they didn’t entirely.

One of these was gift-giving, which is actually a borrowed tradition believed to be older than Christmas itself, and goes back to the New Stone Age when food was exchanged between farmers at mid-winter. There was a practice of giving presents during the last week of the year. The Egyptians exchanged gifts on a day which they celebrated as a special feast, but the gifts were of one kind and all gave and received the same kind of present. This practice was considered as a form of social bonding. However, times have changed and today, the reality differs from what it ostensibly proclaimed.

In fact, one is today inclined to wonder if there is any room left in our pretentious state for the real Christmas festival. This view is prompted by the prevalent governance gap that those in power are simply unable to bridge. There is no question of a “new” India that the state can claim to be aiming for. It is still the very same India we always knew.

Against this background there is a mood of pessimism which tempts us to look upon the festivities of the season as mere relics of a shattered ideal. True as that may be, it is our duty to collect the relics and preserve them with reverent care, for the ideal of peace, goodwill, harmony and tolerance are the best that we can pursue. We are not yet done with these and like everything else in the world these ideals do not stand in isolation. There will always be a Christmas to air these virtues.

One of the foundations of these virtues is brotherliness. Therefore, we must strive to bring together people of different creeds, classes and cultures to realise that they are all members of the same human family, that the good of all is contained in the good of each, and that if one is weak then all are weak. Such a move would ensure fewer breaches of peace. Greed and selfishness rend asunder the bonds of brotherhood, and no amount of idealism should blind us to the terrible facts of undisciplined human nature.

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Irwin Almeida is a senior journalist who worked with The Indian Express and was a former editor of the East Indian Journal.

Irwin Almeida

Irwin Almeida is a senior journalist who worked with The Indian Express and was a former editor of the East Indian Journal.