More and more Christmas is becoming only a few days of merriment rather than the usual month long preparations and celebrations for the big event.

Contraction of the timetable is not due to any cultural change in the pattern of celebration but the availability of money to spend to promote the Christmas spirit through the giving of gifts and enjoyment of festivities.

This year, “Christmas money”, so to speak, is even more scarce due to the cut-back in expenditure at most levels resulting from damage caused by hurricane Ivan.

Money in circulation is, therefore, less than would be expected.

But thankfully, Christmas is not only about material things.

It is also a time for spiritual reflection and for the renewal of family ties.

Christians celebrate Christmas as a time to rejoice in the birth of Christ.

So, concurrent with the merriment are the religious ceremonies in all Christian faiths expressing goodwill towards men.

The focus is on helping the poor and needy to have some cheer at this time, by gifts of food and clothing.

Many poor people depend on these gifts of charity at Christmas time.

We dare not disappoint them, especially the little children.

Who can ignore the joy of little children receiving and opening gifts; the deep appreciation of the vulnerable and elderly for the assistance received in gift packages?

For those whose happiness is based on making others happy – this is their Christmas joy.

It is little recognised in Jamaica that there is deep poverty at the lower end of the income scale.

The “have-nots” are trapped in a level of poverty which allows for little more than the barest essentials of life.

Those who are unfortunately at this level do not live, they barely exist.

When it is realised how little is needed to bring some cheer to their lives at this time, we should all resolve to help by opening our hearts and pockets.

Despite the many good things that are happening, so many continue to feel the pinch of economic distress.

We are learning in a painful way that not all economic development reaches the bottom levels of the society.

Much of it stops at the top or filters only part way down.

This is one of the failings of the economic model on which our economic system is structured.

That aside, Christmas is still a time to renew bonds of family relationships so that family ties are strengthened. Jamaicans believe in family life.

They know that when all else fails, the family is their backbone of strength.

So we welcome these reunions and in particular, those friends and family from overseas who we see only on such occasions.

May all of us celebrate together the love, fellowship and goodwill of Christmas as we look forward to a new year.

A Merry Christmas to you all.

December 16, 2004

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