The Observer (Kampala)

Uganda: What If We Had No Christmas?


For the great majority of Ugandans, this Wednesday December 25 is no ordinary public holiday.

It is, of course, Christmas, the day when Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, the saviour of mankind. In fact, we would not be far off the mark if we said that many would find it unimaginable if Christmas did not exist. But let us try to do exactly that - imagine that there was no Christmas.

For starters, there would be no trooping to churches on a day like Wednesday and by people who might need to ask for directions to the houses of worship; there would be no 'silent night' prayers and no lengthy homilies; there would be no distant journeys made across the world by people eager to spend this Wednesday with family and friends; there would be no marathon shopping trips and no sumptuous 'Christmas' dinners prepared - some by mothers who can barely find their way around their kitchens; there would be no Christmas carols playing - about a child who was born so that we may be saved, a child whose birth - and subsequent death - means we should all endeavour to leave at peace with our neighbours and our creator.

But Christmas is here. And beyond the ritualistic undertakings that we have come to associate with Christmas, days such as this one are important to a country whose motto invokes the name of God.

While this is a religious celebration, and while religion is as much about exclusion as it is about inclusion, the spiritual significance that comes with it is good for the country. For while one does not need to be religious in order to be a law-abiding citizen of this country, religious principles are one of the key sources of motivation for us to behave properly.

So, rather than take Christmas as another excuse to party and make merry, Christians can make Uganda a better place if they seek spiritual renewal and reconnect with the Christian virtues that are generally not at odds with Uganda's laws and national values. That way we can truly enjoy Christmas and look forward to a happier 2014.

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