Ordinary Man’s Holiday
A holiday in Malawi is a time for some families to spend quality time together. Sometimes expecting such holidays turns into a process that involves saving and planning special events, intended to make the day special. Some of the holidays include Christmas, Easter and Mother’s day.
I come from a family that has never seen a Christmas tree in its house. Every year when we received a Christmas card, we used to hang it in the living room together with many other cards from previous Christmas seasons. Christmas was always special for us because we were sitting together as a family. On the morning of December 25th, mom always prepared us for church service. Soon after mass we all went back home for lunch; the meals prepared for that day were not special in any way except they were served with glory. The day was filled with smiles, but no parties. We used to admire our friends from rich families who would spend the day on a lake beach, throwing parties and shooting fireworks.
We are used to watching western movies that show the life we believe we should have. In essence, the movies demonstrate theoretical lifestyles. They are released by the season, and during the festive season Christmas movies take its peak. Most families in urban areas have started to copy the tradition presented in the movies. They are even adopting everything that comes with the tradition, including decoration styles, types of gifts presented, the stress associated with planning for the holiday and bad behaviours that come with excitement. Most of these families worry every Christmas about things like gifts to buy, decorations to put up, where to spend the holiday and with whom, and what meals to make.
However, this is the minority of Malawi- less than 1.5 per cent of the country’s population. The majority spend their holiday worrying about how they should take care of their families, and how they should heighten family cohesion. They worry about very important questions: Where can I find safe drinking water for my family? How can I treat my child for malaria? How do I protect myself and my family from infections like HIV? How am I going to take my pregnant wife to the hospital who is due to deliver? How am I going to raise school fees for my children? I find such questions more challenging to a family that is willing to spend the holiday in style. If the situation is serious the family end up spending the festive season only on 25th December. Thus 90 per cent of the country’s population worry about these question. They are not able to think about allocating money on their family budget to buy seasonal gifts for their children. According to the United Nations Development Programme’s Human Development Report for 2009, about 74 per cent of the population still lives below the income poverty line of US$1.25 a day and 90 per cent below the US$2 a day threshold. The proportion of poor and ultra-poor is highest in rural areas.
Christmas holiday remains the only one that is respected and spent in style because people are motivated by their Christian beliefs. Hence people (Christians) go to church and back home to continue with their lives.
Questions that challenge the global health dream (safe drinking water for everyone, no infections, and efficient cures) exists in our homes even during holidays meant for celebrations, relaxation, renewal of personal faith and family cohesion. Should we forget about spending the holiday in style because we are afraid of the problems we have in our families? Or we should forget about the important questions during the holiday season, and focus on relaxing and enjoying the season?