Christmas was “invented” (if you will) in the northern hemisphere. The long, cold, dark nights of December cried out for light. The pagans already celebrated the winter Solstice with great gusto (fires, candles, dancing, feasting and general revelry) and so, knowing a good thing when he saw it, after the Emperor Constantine declared Christianity the empire’s favored religion, he then decided that December 25 made a great day to celebrate the birth of Christ.
And so we who live north of the equator tend to associate Christmas with cold and snow and candles and evergreen trees. We have Christmas songs about “in the bleak mid-winter” and Santa’s sleigh in the the snow and dashing through the snow and “White Christmas.”
When Christianity moved south, so did the holidays associated with it. And, as incongruous as it may be, so did the traditions. Even though it is the height of summer here, people put up evergreen trees, hang lights, Santa arrives dressed in boots and furs, there are reindeer sleighs and songs about a “White Christmas.” Never mind that most Zambians have never seen a single snowflake or experienced temperatures much below 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Christmas is irrevocably linked to the winter.
So, the decorations go up at the malls.
There was even a huge tree made out of green plastic bottles – a joint effort by several companies to encourage recycling.
And the InterContinental Hotel put out a call for carolers. I brought my 6th, 7th and 8th graders (on three separate days) to sing “Jingle Bells” and “Frosty the Snowman” and “Silent Night” in the lobby. We had a great time.
Our singing was well received….even though they didn’t give us any Christmas cookies or punch, as is supposed to be traditional for carollers!
And now…I am on my way to the airport and in 24 hours, will touch down at JFK – where I hear there is actually some snow and the temperatures are decidedly frosty.
I’m looking forward to it!