Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Lebanon: So this is Christmas (war not over)

All the Christmasses that never came - artwork by Tarek Chemaly (original circa 1997)

So to go back to John Lennon's "So this is Christmas" - supposedly "war is over" which it is not. Thankfully, not the war I grew up in, but a war nonetheless. Mind you, I know I am writing this post from a position of privilege, someone who can still have a Christmas, a strict minimum Christmas, but no matter how - a Christmas. I said it before, and will say it again, it is not faith that gathers people, it is the rituals. And this year, where I am, there is no midnight Christmas mass. Covid oblige. I liked the midnight mass, simply because I could go there and be away from home, all alone, on (what usually is) a cold night. It would give me time to think and take a small distance back.

I always remember that beautiful Bell's whisky ad which used to run on TeleLiban whereby we see a man enjoying a glass of whisky (actually we only see his hand!) in front of the window on a countryside setting, in the distance, we hear the stroke of midnight from the village church and the tagline goes "what would Christmas be without Bell's?".

Anyhow, I am sure most of you are aware of "Do They Know It's Christmas Time?" hit - on the B side of the single, you could hear the artists speak and David Bowie said something to the effect of "It's Christmas 1984, and there are more starving folk on our planet than ever before. Please give a thought for them this season and do whatever you can, however small, to help them live. Have a peaceful new year." If we exchange planet with Lebanon, the approximation would be correct. Poverty has reached previously uncharted levels, Christmas gifts are too rare to be accounted for (I read an article whereby mothers of school children did a pool of toys their children no longer played with and exchanged them within that circle so that their children can have a "new" toy - which originally belonged to some other child). 

As I said, I write this, and despite all my problems, I am part of the privileged few who still scrapped and managed gifts for my nephews (my niece not being in Lebanon). Part of those who can still have a Christmas table. Not that I come from a ceremonial family, we always did things on the strict minimum, but still, traditions can still be kept. 

And so here we are, no one-size-fits-all solution, each person/family will do what they still manage to do. Reading about the dire economic situation is not like living it on day to day basis, but still, apart from saying, "it is what it is" - little can be done.

"And so this is Christmas, A very Merry Christmas, And a Happy New Year, Let's hope it's a good one, Without any fear" that's Lennon again - in today's Lebanon, that is a lot to ask.