My fellow Barbadians, residents and visitors, I am sure that there won’t be a Christmas message this year that will not speak of the incredibly challenging year we have been experiencing and that has been affecting us both personally and professionally, the disaster wrought upon us by COVID.
But my message this year is that rather than harp or dwell upon it, I want us to fervently commit ourselves to keep the faith and hold on to the hope that this Yuletide season always seems to spring eternal in our breast. Without doubt, better days are coming. Personally, Christmas is my favourite time of the year and I am of the opinion that it must always be celebrated.
Despite our challenges, we must not ever lose sight of the true meaning of Christmas, beginning with the message contained in the story of the birth of the Christ child. This message of hope, of peace and goodwill is a message to put away our differences, our animosities and concentrate on the positive. The message of Christmas also encourages us to consider the needs of others less fortunate. In so doing, we will recognise that those needs are not always necessarily material needs.
COVID brought home very forcibly to us that we must not let ourselves get continually caught up in the daily hurly-burly, the busyness of life that we do not stop to smell the proverbial roses. If it is one thing that COVID has taught us is that we must schedule time for family, friends and acquaintances. Quite frequently our loved ones are not wanting or even expecting that perfect gift at Christmas.
All that they are sometimes asking, is for a kind word or a listening ear. So at this Christmas time, consider giving the gift of your time.
When COVID and its antics began to plague us, my daily tasks were significantly diminished. There were fewer files to peruse and sign off on; there were fewer meetings to convene or attend; there were no physical visits to my beloved Centenarians; there were no visits from foreign diplomats and there were no social engagements – just to list a few of the duties which form part of my life as Governor-General.
And thus in obeying the exhortation to stay at home, especially given my age, I had more time on my hands, time to readjust and time to reflect.
I decided during this time to revisit some of the classics which I had read in my youth, and while I knew the story, I was now able to view the works with a more mature mind. I started with the works of the revered Charles Dickens.
“Despite our challenges, we must not ever lose sight of the true meaning of Christmas, beginning with the message contained in the story of the birth of the Christ child. This message of hope, of peace and goodwill is a message to put away our differences, our animosities and concentrate on the positive.”Governor General Dame Sandra Mason
In the well-known ‘The Christmas Carol’ Scrooge, the character on whom the story is focused, was being encouraged by his nephew to see the beauty that is Christmas and to consider the message it brings and why Christmas should be celebrated.
Dickens had the nephew articulate his views and so when Uncle Scrooge asked what good Xmas had ever done for him, the nephew replied:
“There are many things from which I might have derived good, by which I have not profited… But I am sure that I have always thought of Christmas-time, when it has come around – apart from the veneration due to its sacred name and origin, if anything belonging to it can be apart from that – I have always thought of Christmas time as a good time, a kind, forgiving, charitable, pleasant time; the only time I know of, in the long calendar of the year, when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of others as equals.
And therefore, uncle, though Christmas has never put a scrap of gold or silver in my pocket, I believe it has done me good and, will do me good, and I say God bless it!”
I wish to reiterate and paraphrase something else Dickens said, this time in the story entitled, ‘Christmas Festivities’.
There seems a magic in the very name of Christmas. Petty jealousies and discord are forgotten. Would that Christmas last the whole year through and that the prejudices and passions which deform our better nature were never called into action.
There are a hundred associations connected with Christmas, all positive, cheerful and hopeful. And so, let’s all concentrate on those positives, count our blessings and for the moment do not linger over the dismal but thank God for his mercies towards us.
So may I wish you all individually and collectively a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. And may God bless us all!
Governor General of Barbados, Dame Sandra Mason, GCMG, DA, QC,