The week before Christmas.


Byline: Atle Hetland

It is the week before Christmas. Let me refer to the famous poem, 'It was the Night before Christmas', which was first published anonymously in 1823. And a few years later, Clement Clark More claimed its authorship. It had great impact in America and beyond as regards the tradition of giving Christmas gifts. The story in the poem is about St. Nicholas (also called Father Christmas and Santa Claus) who flies in on his sledge pulled by reindeers, and he enters the house through the chimney and fills the stockings hanging on the fireplace with gifts. Then he is off, probably to the next house, laughing and saying 'Happy Christmas to all; and to all a good night'. And the children who are sleepy and drowsy think they saw and heard it all because when they wake up the next morning, the gifts are in the stockings, and mum and dad pretend they don't know a thing.

Poet Clement Clark More - and Santa Claus - has been given credit for the rise of the gift-giving tradition, today cherished by retail traders all over the world - and children. Christmas has become commercialised, but so have Eid-ul-Azha and other religious events; shopkeepers depend on this trade for a major part of their all-year profit. I am not against it either, and capitalism does worse in many other fields.

When it all settles down after Christmas dinner in the home, when satisfied children and grandparents are asleep - yes, then, we may sit for a moment and reflect on the good life we have been given, thinking about those we love and worry about. We may remember to thank God, too, in a silent prayer, which may also include a mention of our financial needs for next month and year since we overspent on the Christmas celebrations, not only for ourselves but also a bit for charity.

Caroline Krook, the retired renowned Stockholm bishop, held a short prayer service on Swedish TV last Saturday evening, which I had the opportunity to watch on my laptop in Islamabad. She mentioned the Swedish tradition of 'Lucia', which is celebrated in churches, schools and other locations in the morning of 13 December, giving a unique feeling of peace and sacredness to all. Young girls and boys, carrying candles and singing the serene and beautiful 'Luciasangen' and other hymns, would remind everyone of the togetherness of all people under God's starlit sky in mid-winter. It is a festival of light and peace on earth, which can be appreciated by everyone, Christian, Muslim and...

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