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CHRISTMAS is upon us and we should all remember the reason for the season, which is, of course, the birth of Christ. But apart from its religious significance, I think Christmas is a time for family and family traditions.
Seeing how commercialised Christmas has become, it was refreshing to hear an American company promoting the fact that the word “love” should define Christmas and not “sale” (and I could add “loan” and “credit”) . Of course, they were also boasting that their prices were always low, but nevertheless the message was good.
I also received a lovely Christmas message with a similar theme from our Consul General and his team in Toronto. It read: “May the special gifts of Christmas – Love, Joy and Peace, the closeness of family, the pleasure of friends fill your heart and your home this season and remain with you throughout the coming year.”
We must have realised by now that in this troubled world, our only hope of positive change lies with children and good parenting. Closer knit families will lead to closer knit communities, closer knit nations and hopefully a more peaceful world.
Researchers claim that families that engage in traditions report stronger connection and unity than families that haven’t established rituals together. “Traditions provide an all-too-rare chance for face-to-face interaction, help family members get to know and trust each other more intimately, and create a bond that comes from feeling that one is part of something unique and special”. (www.artofmanliness.com)
We need to connect generations and strengthen family bonds. Sociologists and family researchers have found that children who have a high level of grandparental involvement have fewer emotional and behavioural problems, and family traditions are a good way to create this grandparental involvement.
But, maintaining family traditions can be challenging in this technologically driven world. A friend and I were discussing recently, that in our generation, all of us cousins knew each other and visited each other on a regular basis. In the next generation there was less contact, and in the present generation, some cousins don’t even know each other.
Nowadays, families may meet once a year – usually at Christmas time and often initiated by the older generation, but although the younger family members are in the same room, there’s hardly, if any, interaction. Everyone is busy on their electronic devices and not a word is spoken. I’m told that sometimes they’re communicating through the devices – but it’s not the same.
My friend said that her mother bans all electronic devices at their family party. She provides a room with board games and everyone is expected to participate. Sometimes the older generation plays against the younger generation and so on. That’s certainly a good start at bonding.
Then there’s the matter of Christmas presents. Many children have so much given to them throughout the year that Christmas gifts mean little to them. And children’s expectations have become so high that they can’t appreciate anything simple. I recently watched a Christmas movie where a simple toy was totally rejected by all the children because it “didn’t have an app” or other electronic features.
My friend says she doesn’t give her children presents at Christmas any more – she gives them “family experiences” like a boat ride to swim with “the turtles or a visit to some attraction. She also spoke of family evenings where the family plays board games or watches a movie at home together. I’m sure when they become adults, they’ll remember these much more than all the gadgets they received.
Then there’s the matter of sacrifice for the less fortunate. It’s good to see that some companies are now donating to various charities rather than giving corporate gifts to their customers. That trend of giving to the less fortunate needs to be inculcated from early. I was pleased to hear my niece say that she was taking her sons to town to donate some of the money they had saved to the Salvation Army. Another niece who volunteered to help with the Flow sponsored Christmas charity event took her daughters with her to help the little girl choose her gifts. I’m sure this helped them appreciate the plight of the less fortunate.
Finally, since I’m not big on political correctness, let me wish you all a blessed and peaceful Christmas and a healthy, happy and prosperous New Year!
• Dr Frances Chandler is a former independent senator Email: firstname.lastname@example.org