Known for its euphoric ambiance, festivities, and sparkling or attractive ornaments, Christmas is annually recognized as the season of goodwill, hearty compliments, and wishes. It is also marked as the period commemorated as the birth of Jesus Christ. However, the Christmas we all adore has its controversies; one marked especially with filch and heist, leaving our own for rots. This article draws a comparison between two uneven cultures, depositing why one is respected for another. Let’s proceed.
ORIGIN OF CHRISTMAS
For many Africans or black people, the word “pagan” is entitled to something ungodly or carnal. But, are you aware that Christmas stems from pagan and Roman cultures? I bet you are not. Well, Christmas was celebrated by pagans who offered thanksgiving and celebration to their gods. Set in a society dwelled by Romans, the month of December was marked for two holidays: the celebration of their god of agriculture Saturn, and the birth of Mithra, their sun god. Two weeks were set aside for parties honoring Saturn, the celebration was called Saturnalia. December 25th was purposely meant for Mithra. Both celebrations were wild, erotic, and drunken parties. The Romans also decorated their homes with evergreen trees to mark the coming of spring. The Greeks also decorated trees in honor of their gods.
The accustomed tradition of decorating trees we are used to today hails from Northern Europe where Germanic pagan tribes decorated evergreen trees in the worship of the god Woden with candles and dried fruit. This tradition was incorporated into the Christian faith in Germany during the 1500s. Henceforth, it has been a global exercise with the decoration of trees in their homes with sweets, lights, and toys. Oops! not forgetting the exciting Christmas-themed songs.
As Christianity spread across Europe, the Christian body was unable to curb or outclass these pagan customs and celebrations. And since the actual date of birth of Jesus was unclear, they adapted and intertwined the pagan ritual into a celebration of his birthday.
For kids, the centerpiece of Christmas is Santa Claus. He is presented as a fun and mythical being who dispenses gifts to kids depending on how naughty or nice they were throughout the year. On the other hand, African cultures and traditions are represented through local festivals or procession of masquerades. These masquerades are an actual representation of our various individual tribal belongings. The masks are said to be the face of our ancestors in their grandeur and splendor. You see, masquerades are an in-bred totem of ourselves. To shy away from that fact means we are misrepresenting ourselves. The rituals or incantations are proffered in our tongues. A reflection is felt in that process. It is yours. But, why are our local festivals and masquerades censored? What is the rhetoric behind it?
In Sierra Leone, the government instituted a ban on the procession of masquerades and the annual lantern procession which is done on the eve of the country’s independence. A law that was loudly applauded by religious leaders and some set of the populace. In spite of that, the government had to organize Christmas-themed parties for public servants and children. Wait a minute! I thought we were against all things pagan?
The New Yams Festival is done at the end of the farming season. Celebrated by Igbos, they offer sacrifices to their god of harvest, thanking him for a bountiful harvest. Like Christmas, they are both the same. But one is recognized whilst the other is denigrated because of the mental conditioning positioned since birth. Racism is often defined as the sultry pebble exchange between Black and White people, but it must be redefined. Racism is the abandonment and submergence of your own belonging or entitlement to another unmatched by your character. We even have ornaments like Christmas bells, trees, and many more. Yet still, we regard African beads or amulets as devilish.
Does Santa Claus share a resemblance with you? Can he speak your language? If both Christmas and African traditional societies are ideas of paganism, then why is the latter more appreciated than the former? Why do we have to import paganism instead of enjoying ours?
Until we learn that our culture and tradition are paramount in emancipating ourselves from mental slavery, only then will we be free from the belittled status.