Dec 26 should be National Family Day


Thursday, January 10, 2013

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ABOUT two weeks ago there was a newspaper photograph of youngsters in a boxing match on Boxing Day.

The truth is that Boxing Day has nothing at all to do with any form of physical contact. As recently as the last century, the servants in the castles of England had to work on Christmas Day. On the Feast of St Stephen, the day after Christmas, the old things, especially clothes and shoes, were thrown out having been replaced with presents Christmas. The old things were put in boxes and the servants would fight for them. After 50 going on 51 years of Jamaica's political independence, we should not observe Boxing Day.

I have written for years now that we should keep December 26 as a holiday but that it should be renamed Family Day. I was alone on this and noticed that I could not even hear my echo, except those who were happy to hear the history of Boxing Day. But I realise now that I have at least one supporter for at least half of the idea. On New Year's Day, there was a letter in The Gleaner over the name of Amos Wint, calling for the abolition of Boxing Day.

My main concern, as it is with Amos Wint, is that Boxing Day is a relic of the colonial past and we need to stamp out anything that reinforces mental slavery. Where we part company is in wanting to abolish the day without a replacement. True, some say that Jamaica has too many public holidays and no doubt they would not mind removing half of them. But Jamaica has fewer public holidays than many countries; as we have 10 public holidays while some countries have as many as 15.

In Jamaica, December 26 has been a holiday for longer than anyone living. So, calls for the abolition of Boxing Day, however distasteful the observance may be, without mention of a replacement, will harm the cause of its abolition more than anything else. In the first place, the politicians would never take away a holiday from the populace as that would be political suicide. And if I were in their shoes I would not do so either. In the second case, there is a tradition in Biblical history and sacred tradition that one holiday is replaced by another.

Jesus Christ instituted the Holy Eucharist and the ministerial priesthood on the Jewish Feast of the Passover. And the Holy Spirit came down on the Christians on the day of the Jewish corn festival which was known as Pentecost, meaning '50 days' -- as the corn festival was held 50 days after the Jewish Passover. The church itself in Rome would convert the pagan feast of the unconquered sun into Christmas Day, and the feast of the pagan goddess Eostre into the Feast of the Resurrection (Easter).

When he was premier of Jamaica, Norman Manley understood the holiday replacement system very well. Up to 1960, there was Empire Day, which was a public holiday. On that day school children would gather at school and sing, "Rule Britannia, Britannia rules the waves the British shall never, never again be slaves". Norman Manley thought it absolutely wrong for a nation to be going into political independence with that sort of colonial relic. So his initial plan was to replace the May 24 holiday with National Labour Day.

In the House of Representatives, it was DC Tavares, of the then opposition, who suggested that rather than May 24 it should be May 23 as that was the day when Sir Alexander Bustamante founded the first modern trade union arising out of the 1938 civil unrest, the Bustamante Industrial Trade Union. Norman Manley agreed with Tavares so the bill was amended to have National Labour Day on May 23, which was passed.

For the replacement name of the holiday, I would have suggested Kwanza, which is the Swahili word for 'family'. But in Jamaica we are not yet sufficiently emancipated from mental slavery to accept that word for a holiday. About 20 years ago Leachim Semaj spoke a lot about Kwanza. In recent times, Mutabaruka has been involved in trying to promote Kwanza. I can understand why nothing much was said in 2011, as there was an election campaign on in earnest. But it seems that it was shelved in 2012 also. Let's start it again this year and let us press our Parliament to keep December 26 as a holiday and formally change its name to National Family Day.


I had originally intended to write that the International Monetary Fund is not our salvation and that we can get along without it. I was also prepared to be harshly criticised and was bracing myself to endure all sorts of verbal abuse. I therefore felt vindicated that the Honourable Gordon 'Butch' Stewart expressed similar sentiments publicly, which was carried in the Jamaica Observer some time last week. I am sure that many will listen now that Mr Stewart has spoken. In 1980, there were hardships, but the withdrawal from the IMF did not necessarily cause those. And the Government in the 1990s, led by PJ Patterson, said "Ta-ta IMF". We can manage without the IMF even if it is with a struggle.




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