Sunday, December 25, 2022

It’s that time of the year Christmas, Boxing Day and the beginning on another year when rich and poor people alike travel to their common ancestry to celebrate the festive season. In Uganda, the poor are especially in the bad old habit of spending so lavishly of the little they have on food, drinks, new clothes, shoes, and general merrymaking that you wonder when they will ever learn to be frugal. It’s the expense, the stress, and also hypocrisy where people even buy and send presents for people they don’t like, and with money they probably don’t even have. The excess is obscene but the two worlds, rich and poor will co-exist because after all, the wind of the rich doesn’t foul the air. 

The last two Christmas holidays 2020 and 2021 were under Covid19 lock-down, and so many people were spared the obscene spending. While many Christians hold 25 December as the day Jesus Christ was born, many history philosophers consider this claim dubious or otherwise unfounded because his date of birth is not stated anywhere in the gospel.

But more interesting is that Christmas as we know it today didn’t start to be celebrated when Jesus was born because it’s not even clear that he was actually born on 25 December either. Even then celebrations are said to have tended to be riotous, with binge-drinking, gluttony and hedoism involved, and celebrants often went door-to-door menacingly threatening vandalism if they were not given food and drink, which we seem to be going back to judging by what’s happening these days.

The first recorded incidence of Christmas celebration was in 336AD during the Roman Empire under Emperor Constantine. In Europe where winter was tough December coincided with its end and worst when people would look forward to longer days and warmer weather. It was Pope Julius I who made it an official Christian celebration in 350AD because the date coincided with the winter solstice and Jewish Hanukkah, which were already times of celebrations, so they let festivities be enhanced by Christmas during this period. It is said that in this time of the year cattle would have also been slaughtered, and wine and beer had fermented during the winter and everyone was ready to consume fresh produce in abundance. In 529, December 25 was made an official holiday in Italy. And so today many celebrate it as Christian holiday marking the birth of Jesus Christ.

Renaissance was when people aided by the printing press began to read the bible by themselves rather than relying on priests and Church, which they realised the Church was misusing it. However, this doesn’t mean they stopped believing in the Bible, only that they realised through reading it that the Church had got many things wrong. The translation of the Bible into common languages helped by the printing press further enhanced its reach to the public.

From it followed rebellion against the Catholic Church for opulence when people took religion into their own hands starting with the Renaissance and later the Protestant revolution (Reformation). The reformation was met with a Counter Reformation by the Catholic Church which sponsored artists, architects and musicians in aid of the church.

The Renaissance was an epoch of European cultural revival dating from the 14th to the 17th century known mostly for artistic and architectural achievements. The most well-known personalities of the Renaissance include among others Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and William Shakespeare. The famous dome of the Florence Cathedral in Italy is considered the first renaissance building, and St Peters Basilica its grandest. Virtually all of the Renaissance’s architectural masterpieces are cathedrals and palaces. The Catholic Church sponsored many of them hoping to control their influence over its wanton luxury and extravagance.

The Renaissance was followed by The Enlightenment, also called the Age of Reason dated from mid-17th century ending with the French Revolution of 1789which overthrew King Louis VIII and Queen Marie Antoinette. Its foremost figures are philosophers and scientists who changed what Europeans thought about man, society and nature. Its illustrative project was a book, The Encyclopedia, otherwise also known as “A reasoned dictionary of the sciences, arts, and crafts” whose founding editor was French philosopher Denis Diderot. Its mission as stated by Diderot was to change the way people think, to inform themselves and to know things. The Enlightenment accomplished what its founders expected of it.

In its trail rose Voltaire, Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Baron de La Brede et de Montesquieu with revolutionary political ideas such as secular government, social contract, sovereignty of the people and separation of powers and three revolutions in their wake.  Later, Adam Smith bequeathed the world with the invisible hand and principle of value addition.  In this age of commercial religion where we pray with closed eyes so that sinners don’t get embarrassed, The Lord says that the last days will be terrible as people become lovers of themselves, money and earthly things. Otherwise, let everyone enjoy the festive season.