The air-condition dial in the office is set at 24 degrees centigrade, but on a very hot day like today, you can feel the blistering heat penetrating ever so quietly through the massive window pane overlooking the Savalalo Flea Market. The thickly-pleated curtains provide a buffer between the humidity on the outside and the comforts of an air conditioned office on the inside. It is only then that one muses over the spoils of corporate existence that seems so far removed from the huff and buff of the Fish Market next door or the smoke filled bus depot alive with commuters going about their usual daily grind.
Miles and miles of Blue Ocean with a uniquely pacific pulse immediately beyond the maketi, is dotted with fishing boats of various sizes and construction. Further out in the deep blue yonder, a steamer rolls in to the Matautu wharf probably carrying container loads of foreign paraphernalia and Christmas toys to keep our toddlers amused for yet another festive season.
I peel back the curtains to take a peek at the crowd outside and witness a fracas in the car park of what appears to be two young girls pulling at each other’s hair. What is more noticeable though is that one of them is wearing a Santa hat which seems to stay firmly attached amidst their energetic tug-of-war. Santa Hat!
My forehead cringes into thin layers of fatty tissues as I ponder the significance of it all which reminds me it is Christmas this week. I am curious to find out what the young ladies are fighting over and since I haven’t taken my afternoon tea break, I decide to wander over to the car park and have a bit of a nosey around.
Along the side street adjacent to the bus depot – lies a row of little shops selling sandals, shoes, kids toys, coconut buns, tapa cloth and custard pies. I lean over the counter and ask the shopkeeper about the fight and was the least amazed at how fast the news travels in this small community of ours.
According to her husband who witnessed the fight up close, the two cousins are from ‘kua’ and they were arguing over the Christmas hat. As a result, the fight followed and it was about ownership, which reminded me of two lyre birds scratching the ground and kicking foliage in each other’s face for the right to claim the nest. Oh well it seems the Christmas spirit has taken a back seat in this case!
All around Apia, and I have absolutely no doubt the whole country as well, Samoans are gearing up for Christmas 2016 as they usually do every year since this country accepted Christianity some 150 years ago.
For some families, Christmas is a celebration of the birth of Christ and for others it is a time to give family and friends a present just to let them know that you care. The two young ladies fighting over a Christmas hat never doubted for one moment, that the red woolen hat with blinking neon lights and probably made in China, was worth fighting for.
But is Christmas what it’s supposed to be anymore? Is it worth grovelling over? Is the three talā Christmas hat worth the hair pulling and the tears?
Throughout the world, Christmas is such a special time of year because it places great importance on family values and strengthening relationships. Some may have strayed during the year through arguments or personal differences but Christmas always seems to be the time to kiss and make up, to forgive and move on.
Historically we are so used to thinking about December the 25th as the day Jesus was born, and for most children, that is a day worth waiting for and a time to look forward to getting a new bike, new iPod, or a pair of nike shoes for the foot-lose and fancy-free, and a plethora of presents that will become landmarks in someone’s memories for years to come.
But according to Lawrence Kelemen, author of “The real story of Christmas” it seems that the 25th of December is a popular myth and that no religious historians or Biblical scholars can pinpoint exactly when Jesus was born.
Moreover, The DePascha Computus, an anonymous document believed to have been written in North Africa around 243 CE, placed Jesus’ birth on March 28. Clement, a bishop of Alexandria (d. ca. 215 CE), thought Jesus was born on November 18.
Given our cultural adaptation of Christmas and the significance of our modern day celebrations in comparison to the information given beforehand, does it really matter what day Jesus was born? Would it really feel like Christmas if for some reason we change the date to any of those presumed by the DePascha Computus?
I think the answer to that would be a resounding NO.
I can just imagine if that were to happen – it could result in a global disaster with parents dosing up their kids with antidepressants because they have been told, the 25th of December is no longer Christmas Day….lol!
What impact would that have on corporations and many businesses that thrive during the Christmas period? Nevertheless, seeing the two young ladies fight over a hat brings Christmas closer to home. They couldn’t care less who Clement was! All they cared about was who gets to keep the hat and probably because that’s all the money they had, just enough for one.
There are similar stories reverberating around Samoa this Christmas. It is no different from any other that we have celebrated in the past, except that a lot of Samoan families have struggled to make ends meet in the past ten years, in particular due to the dramatic rise in the cost of living and the impact of religious and cultural demands on our people.
In the Observer Newspaper throughout this year, there have been numerous stories of families who have been hard done by, while others are still struggling to survive even to this day. Some have been made homeless because they were booted out of their villages for not abiding by village protocols. What then is the meaning of Christmas for them?
Whilst our own preferences as Christians vary on how we view and celebrate Christmas this year or any other, some Samoan families are quietly huddling together, rejoicing in God’s kindness that even though they have no presents to give each other this Christmas, they have their families to love and care for. That for me is the true essence of Christmas.
I really don’t care much for a religious debate to affirm a date Jesus was born. I don’t care because when a kid approached me on Saleufi Street to buy his koko Samoa so he can get something for his sister in the hospital for Christmas, my faith in Christmas as I know it – will never be shaken or tested.
For the families who will not have the spoils of Christmas like many others around the world, it is comforting to know that Christ died for everyone regardless of what his birth date is and regardless of whether you get a present for Christmas or not!
For the two young ladies who fought over the Christmas hat, I am sure that by the time they get on the bus on the way home at the end of the day, they would have experienced the ups and downs of Christmas through their own eyes – while getting caught up in the frenzy of pre-Christmas Apia. Hopefully they would have kissed and made up and learn to share their Christmas Hat with blinking neon lights on Christmas Day.
Merry Christmas Everyone!
Born in Tafagamanu/Savaia Lefaga, attended Lefaga Primary and then Samoa College.Tertiary education in Australia where he attained a BA in Media &Politics, a Masters degree in Communications & Psychology, and an MBA from the Uni of New England. Currently working at the Development Bank of Samoa as their Corporate Services Manager. A garden enthusiast.