Cherish Unity Day not Christmas


THE festive season is upon us, the Christmas fever has gripped the nation.

Naturally Christmas is characterised by lots of spending and visiting friends and relatives.

During this period, we go back kumusha/ekhaya to take stock of the livestock we have not had time to attend to as we pursue our different hustles in the towns and cities around the country.

In all this pomp and funfair, all other commemorations and celebrations pale in comparison.

For example, in Zimbabwe we have the historic Unity Day, three days before Christmas.

I will repeat what we have said in the past, few people stop to think about this day, Unity Day, which is dwarfed by the more worldly Christmas celebrations, let alone remember its significance and story. We blindly take on a holiday that has a few connection to us historically.

The Gospel of Luke links the date of Jesus’ birth to a census in Palestine decreed by Caesar Augustus and it is never mentioned which time of the year it was.

The first evidence of speculation about the date is in the 3rd Century when Clement of Alexandria suggested May 20. The earliest mention of observance on December 25 was in BC 336, representing a Roman practice.

According to historians, it was around the same time the Eastern Church began to observe the Nativity (birth narrative of Christ) on January 6, the feast of Epiphany.

By the middle of the 5th Century, however, most Eastern churches had adopted December 25. It became norm for the early Christians to replace popular ‘pagan’ festivals with holy days; the date of Christmas appears to have been set to provide an alternative to such. It was the same in Africa where many African customs and traditions were erased to nonentities. We were to abandon the bira along with the mbira.

We were to abandon all rituals that connected us with our Africaness as they were labelled ‘pagan and evil’. Instead, they were replaced with snowy white images when Christ was born in the ever sunny Middle-East.

December 25 was originally the date of the feast to the sun god, Mithras.

The cult of Mithras had spread from Persia into the Roman world in the first century, and by the third century was Christianity’s main rival. December 25 also came at the end of the feast of Saturnalia, an ancient Roman festival commemorating the golden age of Saturn.

Although Christmas was intended as an alternative to ‘pagan’ festivals, the practices of those festivals were often simply incorporated into the Christian celebration.

So instead of the nation remembering that December 22 marks a time when we united as one tribe and race despite the many attempts to divide us, they think about Christmas.

Just as we had done in the war, we stopped looking at the linguistic differences that existed among us and began to take on a nationalistic lens. Today, Unity Day is not only overshadowed by the overly commercialised Christmas celebrations, but also by forces within and outside of our nation who would rather divide and conquer.

Unity Day is either made insignificant by some or used as a platform to reopen ethnic wounds masterminded by the colonial regime.

Unity Day should be looked at with seriousness for to date, unity among black people remains a thorn in the flesh for whites. After all, it is the national blanket that covers us all and we should each hold on to it for warmth.


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