January 03, 2007

White Christmas?

Like most of us, I'm just emerging from the belly of the Christmas and New Year celebrations and find myself inclined to wonder just what we were up to exactly over the last few weeks. I don't wish to jump on a bandwagon to mourn the passing of the Christian meaning of Christmas but it's difficult to see that there's anything left at all of any significance in our public celebration of the ancient feast. Whatever about what goes on behind closed doors, it felt to me that on the streets and in the shopping malls we were simply going through the motions.

Just before Christmas, Declan Kiberd in his Irish Times column suggested that "what was most romantic in Christianity was its openness to the stranger". Some of that romance, which I remember myself from happy Christmas returns to Ireland when I lived on the far side of the world, certainly seems to be missing now as we retreat to our castles to celebrate with a chosen few. Despite Shane McGowan's 'Fairytale of New York" topping a number of 'Best of' polls over the holidays, there is little evidence to suggest that we have turned to the strangers in our own streets to make them welcome at Christmas.

If the experience of other immigrant cities is anything to go by, it strikes me that we might look to the 'strangers in a strange land' among us when we next celebrate Christmas and enter into a spirit which is much older than the token feasting and exchange of gifts of the past few weeks.

Bah humbug..? What do you think?

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