LIFESTYLE: I’ve never lived in a palace and I’ve never spent Christmas on a hospital bed but it’s been three decades of contrasting seasons of festivities since my childhood.

Being born in a heavily religious family makes some things obvious, for instance you don’t have a choice on whether to go to church on Sundays, you must go.

There is also a particular line of religious activities that one cannot eliminate in a Reverend’s home, the many visitations from Christians, the loud voices of final rehearsals for the choir, the sight of hundreds of congregations on the D-day etc. are unavoidable.

But despite such consistency in religious activity in my path of growth, other activities exactly fall on the opposite end.

I fondly remember the day my family shared porridge during new years’ lunch because that was all there was and yet on another occasion the same family would slaughter a goat to celebrate the same festivity.

It's a custom in many homes and communities that people travel far and wide, share gifts, organise lavish parties and do expensive shopping to celebrate Christmas.

The discotheques, clubs and musical shows are usually the talk of town, the artists including musicians, comedians, dramatists etc. make the big money during this time.

Way back in my village community, groups toil throughout the year to raise funds for the ‘big day’ so they can have plenty of meat, clothes, and drinks to celebrate.

However, the year 2020 has turned the discourse of many things including celebrations of the Christmas holidays, the COVID-19 pandemic ‘sneaked’ in and hundreds of thousands of lives have been lost in its maiden year across the world.

The rich, powerful and mighty and the poor all alike have been brought crumbling on their knees as COVID-19 ravages the world.

Particularly during the Christmas season, the government has asked the urban dwellers to suspend the routine Christmas visits to the villages for fear of worsening the spread of the virus. But even more than the directive, the economic hardships many have had to endure under the weight of restrictions just make the 2020 edition of Christmas unpalatable.

Those that hinge their hopes on the custom luxuries of the previous years are left with less if not no options, some have already called 2020 a ‘dead year’ and it’s likely that for someone who’s hopes are all in partying, travelling, shopping etc, this Christmas could equally become a dead one.

But what is Christmas in the first place? According to Christian doctrine, isn’t it about the coming of Jesus Christ the born of Mary to save mankind? Doesn’t the Bible teach that one should prepare the heart more than the body to receive Christ during this day?

St PA fully packed congregation at St. Philips Church during a previous Christmas (PHOTO BY RIMILIAH AMANDU)

The Bible says the three wise men from the east brought precious gifts as they glorified God for the birth of this new King, so shouldn’t the day be about giving our most precious gift to God, What better gift other than our hearts?

Luckily for the Christians, Churches have been opened so those ‘Christmas Christians’ usually seen in Church once a year should have their wish granted. This unlike the Easter season, one of the busiest in the Christian Calendar that occurred when strict lockdown measures were still in place.

For those focused on the purpose of the season, Easter would never be called a dead year, they opened their hearts and celebrated Jesus’ Christ resurrection from their homes.

Therefore, despite the limitations by COVID-19, the true meaning of Christmas still remains, going through those childhood inconsistencies due to family finances has mentally prepared me to accept any ‘other’ condition for Christmas.

But one constant for this big day as is our family tradition has been Christ Jesus and because of Him, this day has ever been celebrated in our family regardless of other factors.

Under the new normal imposed by COVID-19, many have already given up on Christmas and labelled it a dead one but what if just like my family, you choose Christ for Christmas?