We are supposed to be celebrating the birth of our Lord and Saviour. During this holy week centuries ago, Mary and Joseph rented out that bespoke Airbnb and, shortly afterwards, gave birth to the King of Kings. There is all that nonsense about historical accuracy and the impracticality of Jesus actually being born in December, but we will not let silly things like facts get in the way of a good religion. And so, we are gearing up to usher in baby Jesus.
Imagine my surprise, then, when I overheard a lady asking her man, in the sugary tone I have come to associate with begging, what he was getting her for Christmas.
As in, “Babe, I can’t wait to see what you bought me for Christmas!” That man only laughed nervously and sent me pleading eyes.
Now, being Kenyan, I understand our tendency to slip into holiday mode at the slightest provocation. I know we don’t need a second invitation to delve into the bottle, which is why we have such an abiding love for Gazette Notices announcing public holidays.
Naturally, December is seen as the party to end all parties. I know people who are starting their celebrations this week, combining it with the office parties and then keeping the run going until January. The only time they want to be sober is when they are going to buy liquor. And maybe the five minutes when you’re hugging your mom. For the rest of the holiday, though, your blood will be alcohol. So, you know, I get it.
What I have a small problem with is the behaviour our dear ones have normalized, where we celebrate the birth of our Saviour by lavishing them with gifts. Turning the spotlight on them, as if they were the ones who carried that cross from the temple to Golgotha. “It’s someone else’s birthday, so where is my birthday cake?”
It is a noose you cannot slip. Either she asks you outright, dropping naked hints and saying it with her chest… or she spends the entire lead-up to the holidays sharing stories of what her girlfriends’ boyfriends did for them.
Birthdays and Valentine’s Day
Wambo’s man booked a weekend in Dubai. Njoki’s side-piece got her an assortment of products from the artist formerly known as Rihanna. Even Turu, whose baby daddy is the most miserly man on the planet, managed to surprise her with a chocolate basket. Cue the inevitable question: what are your plans?
There you are, hoping to have a quiet holiday, relax from the beating you took that year, maybe pour one out to Jesus to say thank you… but no. You have to spend that time finding a thoughtful but mightily expensive gift. One that says ‘I love you’ but also ‘I almost went bankrupt just for you’.
To be clear, it’s not just a Christmas thing. Birthdays and Valentine’s Day, that’s one thing. Special occasions like anniversaries are another.
But beyond those, that question is thrown out with stunning frequency throughout the year, and with increasing impunity. “What are you getting me for Jamhuri Day?” “Where are we going for Eid?” (the SDA deserter asks the fifth-generation PAG congregant).
There need not be an occasion. If a day on the calendar has the nerve to be out-of-the-ordinary, then it is gift o’clock. And as it so happens, the gift-giving tends to be very one-sided. You get socks, I get Chanel. In the spirit of the holidays, by all means, have fun and make merry. Celebrate your loved ones as best you can. Should that involve splurging on a gift, then cash out. It will be worth it just for the smile you put on your face.
But going forward, we should shed the expectation that a holiday means someone making it rain on us. Especially if all we offer in return is our cute smile and a quick thank-you tumble. The holidays are hard enough on people just trying to feed themselves and their families. Don’t be the reason someone dreads the end of the year. Stop demanding the spotlight, when you’ve had it all year.
More importantly, this week is about Jesus. You know, that nice chap who died for our sins. How about we keep the limelight on Him?