CHRISTMAS in Papua New Guinea is a time when homes, streets, stores and churches are gaily decorated and Christmas carols dominate music on radio stations and in the shops.
Like in countries around the world, kids anticipate that Santa Claus will bring goodies. My son, seeing someone dressed in red in one of the shops, reminded me of Father Christmas and asked what the great man would bring him this year.
It was an expectation strengthened by my son’s kindergarten. The school asked parents to dress their children like Father Christmas and buy gifts for the school’s version of Santa Claus to distribute. Some churches do the same.
While the culture of Santa Claus originated in Europe, many Papua New Guineans enthusiastically inherit the tradition and adopt it in their own family and community celebrations.
I have never received a gift from Santa Claus. However, I equate the portly man with the snowy beard with my parents and others who have freely shared their time and resources with me and been part of my growth.
I realise it is now my turn to carry on the legacy of the good people who have supported me in my life.
Christmas and the rituals and decorations surrounding it send a strong message of love and feelings of shared universal joy. It is a time of reunion, sharing and caring for one another through the exchange of gifts between members of the family and communities.
For Christians, the decorations, lights, gifts, carols and all the excitement reminds us of the greatest gift of the Son of God, Jesus.
It is a time that recalls for us the journey of Mary and Joseph after the Angel appeared and revealed to them their parental roles in raising Jesus. It reminds us of their journey to Bethlehem where the inns were full and the son of God was born in a manger.
I sit here and contemplate the Bible’s story of Christmas and realise it is a story of joy based on humility, dignity, courage and the intrinsic desire to follow one’s heart for the common good.
The gospel of Luke (1:26-38) reminds us that the Angel appeared to Mary and the Gospel of Mathew (1: 18-25) reminds us that the Angel appeared to Joseph.
For Mary, it was the greatest moment of her life. She surrendered her being to God.
For Joseph, he was told that Mary, the woman who was engaged for him to marry, was pregnant.
I could not imagine the blow in his mind. The humiliation, disgrace and embarrassment this sad news brought ton him. But he didn’t humiliate Mary and accuse her of an affair with another man. He was trying to think of a way to deal with the situation when the Angel appeared and assured him Mary’s child was God’s son and instructed Joseph to name him Jesus.
The journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem, the birth of Jesus and the visits of the shepherds and Orient kings are stories of hardship and humility without losing dignity and value.
Christmas is a time when we can deeply reflect on our own life and renew our efforts to deal with life’s challenges with humility, joy and dignity. It is a time to think of actions directed at producing results for the common good.
The overwhelming stories of corruption, domestic violence, political power struggles, torture, sorcery killings and the endless list of social ills in Papua New Guinean society are indications that we may be losing our fundamental human values.
Christmas is a time when we need to recommit to these values that provide the foundation to create a better society for all.
In whatever way we celebrate Christmas, we enjoy it best when we share and celebrate with what we earn from our own toil and perspiration.
Lower image: Cover of the PNG School Paper from November 1967 - the last issue that I edited before joining the ABC. It features the indomitable Yokomo and his trusty dog Omokoy illustrated by Alan Lucas on his sloop moored at the Papua Yacht Club. Yokomo was first drawn by Alan Lucas and then by Hal Holman OL OAM