Turning Back the Hands of TimeBy Thandi Mkhatshwa

Turning Back the Hands of Time

By Thandi Mkhatshwa

Published on Mon, Jan 11 2010 by Thandi Mkhatshwa
South Africa—This past Christmas has me reminiscing on the past.  Many people especially children look forward Christmas during the year. The day used to excite me too when I was just a little girl. As a child there were so many good things to look forward to on Christmas. For instance, during any other days of the year we only ate porridge with vegetables, and some times with meat. But Christmas day meant that we got to eat things that we never got to eat during the year, like rice, meat, salads, scones etc. These kinds of foods were just too special to be eaten during the year back then.

But the most important thing back then was the fact that on Christmas day we got to wear new clothes. It was a tradition (and still is) for children in rural areas of South Africa to wear new clothes on Christmas day. This was the only time parents actually bought their children new clothes. The rest of the year we got nothing. So, it was only natural that my mother would buy me some new clothes to wear on Christmas day too.

 On Christmas day I would wake up very early in the morning so that I can bathe early and wear my clothes, so I could go around and show them off to my friends. It was unlikely for some children not to wear new cloths on this day, but if it happened that some kid didn’t wear any we would make fun of them. This was a cruel thing to do because some parents couldn’t to afford the clothes. But when you’re a child you don’t know any better.

On Christmas day we would also go dancing. Almost all of my neighbours had sound systems. Some of them would take them out of the house and put them outside so that the sound could be very loud. As children we were drawn to the music like flies to light. We would dance until it was very late in the evening and not get into trouble with our parents. These were times when people got along with their neighbours and trusted them with each other’s kids. People were much nicer and kind. But now things have changed and so have the ways I celebrated my Christmas.

As I grew older and became an adult Christmas became like any ordinary day. I no longer go out and celebrate like I used to. Every year I find myself lying on my bed bored.  I think it’s because unlike in the good old days I don’t have to wait until its Christmas to wear new clothes. I buy and wear them whenever I feel like it. I also don’t have to wait for Christmas to eat rice, meat, salads etc. Unlike back then when poverty was still at large.  I now can eat those things whenever I feel like eating.
Another thing that I have been noticing, not just on Christmas but on a daily basis, is that people are no longer kind and generous. Neighbours argue and fight like cats and dogs. Although the tradition of wearing new clothes on Christmas day hasn’t died yet, it’s no longer safe for children to be walking around the streets all alone at nights to go dancing. Kids can get raped or killed by the same people who live in their neigbourhood. It could be a close relative like an uncle or even a neigbour. This is every parent’s worst nightmare.

But besides fasting, some people have no heart and could easily hurt children. I am really glad that some things have changed for the better. Many people now have money to support their families, and they no longer have to wait for Christmas to spoil them. But I sometimes wish I could turn back the hands of time, to a time when children were free to be children and Christmas felt like Christmas.


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