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Virtues of Christmas

I trust that my fellow Barbadians have had an enjoyable and purposeful Christmas celebration over the last two days. I am sure many will still be celebrating amongst family and friends well into the new year.

One of the most wonderful things about Christmas is the outpouring of charity, love and good cheer. The tranquility and feasts enjoyed are only rivalled by the best of human endeavour.

There is something very special about a Bajan Christmas – the unique blend of indigenous, regional, traditional and contemporary Christmas music creates a magical atmosphere. The assortment of cuisine – black cake, pudding, Farmer’s Choice ham, jug-jug, stuffing and so forth are simply mouth-watering.

The joy of gift giving and the sheer radiance of children opening their gifts and playing with their new toys is something to behold. The Christmas programmes, carolling and worship at midnight mass or early Christmas morning services across the island appropriately enrich the festivities.

The Queen’s Park frolic is not to be outdone as parishioners and fashionistas alike socialise, pose for photographs and take in the ambiance. Bajans know how to host a good lime, and Christmas limes aplenty enhance the experience. Oh how I wish that I was in Bim to partake in the unique Barbados Christmas traditions.

Nevertheless, I had a wonderful time celebrating with my wife, mother and niece. It was our first time hosting a Christmas Day luncheon and we did our best to recreate a few aspects of the Bajan Christmas flair. There was no reason to venture outside, so we still had the warmth of our home.

The conveniences of modern telecommunication allowed us to share our Christmas cheer with friends and family in Barbados and elsewhere in the world. This was not a white Christmas but the snow came tumbling down on Boxing Day and now the city is blanketed. There is no substitute for Christmas in Bim.

For many people across the world, 2012 has been a challenging year. Some people have lost loved ones, their jobs and the quality of life they have grown accustomed to. Others have been stricken with ill health or broken relationships and of course some have lost their homes, their freedom or their dignity.

As we continue to celebrate this Christmas, let us reflect on the gift of Jesus Christ – his life’s example, salvation, redemption, forgiveness and of course love. As we grapple with our needs and desires, let us not lose sight of those blessings which we so often take for granted.

Let us find it in our hearts to tangibly express love, compassion and charity to our neighbours, the sick, the disabled, the imprisoned, the poor, a child that has lost a parent or is deprived of a loving home environment.

As we prepare to journey through another year, let us meditate carefully on what is truly important in this life – our relationships with each other and our relationship with the Creator. Let us endeavour to do our part to enrich the lives of those persons we come in contact with.

Try not to get too caught up with the temporal, material and transient things in our lives. Avoid the temptation of becoming slaves to our routines or technological devices. Find the time to nurture relationships and work towards the renaissance of community mindedness. Seek out your purpose for being and pursue it with vigour.

Most economic forecasters have cautioned that growth in 2013 is likely to be as timid as in 2012. Indeed some point to a slowing global economy and there remains considerable uncertainty which is likely to stymie growth. Optimistic forecasts outline a best-case scenario of an uptick in economic growth during the second half of the year but this hinges on the United States averting the so called fiscal cliff, raising their debt limit without paralysis or rancour, and a stable or resurgent European Union.

The Barbados Chamber of Commerce has already warned of pending job losses in the new year as a result of the deteriorating financial position of local businesses. My sources in the tourism industry are very skittish about the winter tourist season so far, and the downgrade of Barbados’ sovereign debt rating does not help at all. Government’s finances are still under a great deal of pressure and an election is pending. Perhaps the only real good news at this stage is that inflation in developing and emerging countries is expected to be lower next year.

The prospects for 2013 aren’t looking to bright. Apart from some necessary reforms which Barbados is tardy in undertaking, the nation’s prospects largely depends on the people of Barbados. With a shared vision of a brighter future, the resolved to succeed and a determination to strengthen our communities, Barbados and Barbadians will experience better days than those bygone.

I wish you all a happy new year, an abiding faith in the spirit of Christmas and man’s incredible ability to do great things.

* Carlos R. Forte is a Commonwealth Scholar and Barbadian economist with local and international experience.

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