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  END OF YEAR REFLECTIONS
 
REFLECTIONS ON END OF YEAR FESTIVITIES.
     The significance, abuses and justifications.

                   By Ajibola Aries                               

http://spiritlessons.com/Documents/Jesus_Pictures/Jesus_059.jpg http://spiritlessons.com/Documents/Jesus_Pictures/Jesus_070.jpg http://spiritlessons.com/Documents/Jesus_Pictures/Jesus_011.jpg
Illustrations of Jesus Christ. He cuts accross as a humble, wise and
righteous personality, who Christians should strive to emulate.

A cursory look at the manner the Christmas and other related festivities between Christmas and the New Year are usually celebrated speaks volumes of how much the essence of the season is being lost.
For starters, a good example would be seen in how people, especially youths, use the opportunity to take to partying. On the eve of Christmas day the environment was almost over-inundated with loud music noises from so many of such parties. Consider also, the dress code of most youths at such parties and it becomes clear that the season have, for most youths, become more of a carnival rather than an opportunity for sober reflection and spiritual rejuvenation.
 Another angle to the manner most youths now treat the season is the use of  fireworks. In Nigeria, the use of fireworks has been banned but it is clear that the government has only had its say while the people continue to have their way. Fireworks are still being openly sold on may streets in Lagos, Nigeria and it would appear to be a lucrative business.
 However, the rationale behind the government ban on fireworks remain valid and it also reflects how much so many people have deviated from the proper way of celebrating Christmas, Boxing day and the New Year.
  More often than not, security concerns have been cited (especially by police authorities) as a major reason for the discouragement of the use of fireworks. It is difficult to fault this argument. There are now so many varieties of fireworks in the market and it is often quite difficult to differentiate the sounds of some of them from the sounds of actual gun shots. This in turn makes it often difficult for actual armed robbery incidents to be detected and for proper measures to be taken against the menace during this period. This is part of the causes of the rise in armed robbery incidents in Nigeria during the end of the year festivity periods. Fake armed robbers also use the availability of fireworks to trigger explosions in metallic barrels (dummy guns) to use same to disguise as real pistols or rifles to intimidate victims.
  During periods of christmas, many people have also run into scenes of armed robbery operations after having mistaken gun shot sounds for fireworks. Police authorities know the problems that fireworks create for them in their efforts to combat crime during these periods, hence their objection to the use of fireworks.
  Take also the dangers created by fireworks explosions, and the injuries fireworks have been causing to many people. Some people have had their entire fingers blown off. Some others have had their faces deformed. Indeed, there are now some variants of fireworks whose xplosions are like those of miniature grenades. Take the 41/2 inch red colour KO207 for example, whose explosion actually creates strong vibrations and is known to shatter the windscreens of cars that are unfortunate to be parked close by. These fireworks are used more by young children and teenagers. What sense is there in young children endangering themselves all in the name of festivities?
This is apart from the huge nuisance fireworks cause, making such festive periods among the least conducive for rest and concentration.

     

  This is not a war zone. The  disaster here was sparked on May 13, 2000 in Enschede, the Netherlands due to fireworks storage. The disaster area covered more than 1 kilometer with 5,300 inhabitants.
22 people died from the direct impact, with more than 800 wounded, and at least 400 residential houses were damaged beyond repair.

 
 How many have taken a harder look at this situation, to also observe how the use of fireworks has, in its own way, been inculcating militant mentality in our young people?
If you have witnessed certain scenarios whereby these youths engage in mock street battles with fireworks, this will make some sense to you. On Friday december 7, I was taking a walk with a friend near the lagoon front of the University of Lagos campus and we watched some dirty teenagers as they chased one another in the bush with fireworks while manouevouring to dodge the blasts caused by the fireworks. I did not derive pleasue from the scenario. After looking at them for a while, I asked my friend, 'In what way are these teenagers different from RUF fighters, except for the absence of rifles in their hands?'
  Then what about the wastefulness of money involved in the use of fireworks? Each time a firework is blasted, it is money that burns away. And who knows how many firework pieces blast away every second during this period? 
It is a pity that in Nigeria, the majority of children who use these fireworks are the children of the poor, who, because of their comparative ruggedness, are  less wary of the health and other implications of using fireworks, but whose parents are less financially empowered to take the appropriate action should injury or deformity occur as a result of the use of fireworks. The ragged, dirty teenagers we saw at the lagoon front were certainly children of below-average and poor parents, and you had be stunned to see how such children scramble to buy fireworks, and the huge money spent in the process.
The poverty of some people is not necessarily due to government policies, but due to their failure to channel the little they have, into the right things. Investigations show that the cost of many banger packets is really enough for a meal for an averiage child. If an adult inmate in a Nigerian prison is fed with #250 daily, then the cost of a kO207 packet can feed a child for 2 to 3 days!
 So, while basking in the euphoria of the festive seasons year in year out, it is also clear that we have got problems in our hands. The use of fireworks is what it really is: a menace.

                  NOTHING IS WRONG WITH CHRISTMAS
 The purpose of this piece should not be misunderstood to mean a condemnation of Christmas. Rather, it is a condemnation of certain negative innovations that society allows our young people to introduce into the celebrations. It is a condemnation of a trend whereby  the didactism and spiritual essence of the Christmas period is being lost on our young people; an unpleasantt situation whereby most young people spend the eve of Christmas, Christmas proper and Boxing Day partying and blasting fireworks, rather than in church prayer sessions, sermons, reflections and giving to the needy.
 Basically, Christians teach that Christmas is a celebration of the birth (and life) of Jesus. There is no doubt that Jesus Christ was one of the greatest men that ever lived, and one of the best things to ever happen to humanity. It is impossible for a rational, unbiased mind to disagree with the idea of celebrating the birth of such remarkable person and the setting aside of a particular date for same.
  It is the position of this website that the condemnation of Christmas in some quarters, on the basis of an argument that the date is questionable, or has to do with an original pagan practice, is out of place. At best the controversy that this condemnation can generate (especially when made by non-Christians) will only create less inter-religious  harmony, for no group is ever pleased to see what it so much cherishes being attacked and condemned.
 It is a fact that the Christians may never be convinced to bury the idea of Christmas, just as the Muslims can never be convinced to do away with the institution of Islamic polygyny. The issue is about religious tolerance more than about the rightness or otherwise of the date  of  Christmas. 
Perhaps, the only useful purpose that a debate on the proper date of Christ's birth can serve, is a classroom academic exercise, in which case putting to question the real date of Christ's birth, as well as questioning how godly the December 25 Christmas date is, would be a really rewarding exercise.
 I have a friend who quitted smoking and alcoholism after attending the Christian wakekeeping on the eve of the Christmas of 2005, where, I learnt, he tearfully confessed his sins and prayers were said for him, and his resolve was to stop smoking and alcoholism.
With all indications pointing to the fact that the man has actually put a total stop to these bad habits, it remains baffling how a spiritual exercise of one single night could radically change a man for the better.
Then many other stories abound of those whose lives actually turned better as a result of such involvements during the Christmas period.
 In addition, a stone throw away from my residence, there is a practising Christain family whose very well behaved children are never known to throw bangers or use fireworks. Every Christmas eve and Christmas proper, the family is known to always  organise sermons and prayers, and with all these, the reason why the children raised in that family are known to be refined and well mannered, can not be far fetched.
Thus, in the midst of all the partying and earth shaking fireworks display that characterise Christmas and the festive season, there are many individuals, families and groups that actually experience spiritual growth and rejuvenation which form part of the essence of the Christmas period.
 As long as it is a fact that the period impacts positively on the life of some people due to their taking cognizance of the ideal essence and purpose of Christmas, Christmas remains a period worth respecting by all well meaning people.
   So what happens to the negative trends of fireworks blasting, partying and dancing which have overshadowed the ideal essence of christmas in the lives of some people?
Especially with respect to the fireworks menace, the solutions lie in the hands of governments which (as in the case of Nigeria) needs to use the full force of the law to enforce the ban on use of fireworks, while intensifying its orientation programmes aimed at convincing people of its dangers.
On the home fronts lie the responsibilty of parents, both rich, average and poor, to intensify efforts to make their children embrace and appreciate more spiritual values generally, and to give them  the right orientaion about Christmas.
Enough emphasis has been layed here on the use and abuse of fireworks by youths during the Christmas period; when taken together with other deviant acts so many of our youths engage in during the period all in the name of celebrating, it is quite obvious that something is wrong with the orientation most youths have about Christmas and the festive periods.
 Finally, at all times and especially in the months and weeks preceding Christmas, churches should intensify programmes of spiritual and moral enlightenment, and make greater emphasis on those particular programmes that will spiritually engage the youths on the eve of Christmas, Christmas day proper, Boxing day up to the New year day.
 In conclusion,  the problem is not Christmas itself but some negative innovations being introduced into it by some people. Spiritually rejuvenating activities in the period such as prayers, thanksgiving and sermons, and such other activities as exchange of visits, gifts and Christmas cards as well as the giving to the needy, are the ideal essence of Christmas period which, should greater emphasis be placed on them both in theory and practice, will certainly make the period a most worthwhile event
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