Tendai Chara

WILL Christmas be cancelled this year?

Although this question sounds wildly unreasonable, the cancellation of many planned events and celebrations due to the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic is a clear indication that Covid-19 will, to a large extent, ruin the festive mood.

The restrictions that were imposed on public gatherings will definitely take the cheer out of Christmas and subsequently New Year celebrations.

The festive season is often characterised by family get-togethers and parties.

Also, Zimbabweans based in the Diaspora that often boost the festive mood will most likely not be able to travel this time around.

Back home, very few people will be comfortable travelling to their rural areas or embark on long-distance journeys.

This will result in the increase in “virtual” Christmas get-togethers.

Although the pandemic cannot have much impact on such traditional Christmas rites as putting and lighting the Christmas tree, some of the aspects of the festive season will without question feel the heat.

For instance, Christmas shopping will not be as usual.

Due to social distancing requirements and the risks posed by being in public places, parents may not be accompanied by their children.

It is worse for minors that are not allowed to put on face masks by health experts.

Some will even resort to online shopping, which is highly recommended.

However, interviews conducted by The Sunday Mail Society indicate the majority of Zimbabweans are not familiar with online shopping.

“As you can see, the queues are long due to social distancing. Imagine how long the queues will be as we move towards Christmas. I decided to shop early so as to avoid the chaos that I am sure will characterise this year’s Christmas shopping,” Titus Munyedzi, a shopper in Harare, said.

“I do not want to lie: I know nothing about shopping online. This is an area that I need to look closely into.”

With curfews still active, some hospitality venues not yet operating at full-throttle and the ban on nightclubs still in place, the festive season will certainly be a different kettle of fish.

Confess Mutiwadirwa, an events organiser and Master of Ceremonies (MC), is already feeling the effects of the coronavirus.

“Usually, for Christmas and the festive season, we are contracted to offer our services by as many as 15 clients. As we speak, we are yet to get even a single booking,” he said.

Precious Chipere, an entrepreneur who makes and sells cakes, said unlike other years, her business was at an all-time low.

“Before the advent of the coronavirus, I would have been struggling to meet demand for cakes. This current predicament is certainly due to the coronavirus. Christmas will never be the same again,” reckons Chipere, who resides in Harare’s high-density suburb of Dzivarasekwa.

Florists find themselves in unenviable circumstances.

“The number of customers that are buying flowers for home decoration is dwindling since the outbreak of the coronavirus. In the past, demand for decorative flowers was always high as we move towards Christmas. This Christmas might be a bleak one for some of us,” believes Aaron Munyuki, who sells flowers at Africa Unity Square in Harare.

Pastor Emmerson Fundira of the Jehovah Sharma Ministries said the effects of the virus on the festive mood are already being felt by his congregants.

“The majority of our congregants that are based in the Diaspora are not coming. The restrictions on public gatherings means that some of our members will be forced to stay at home during Christmas,” Pastor Fundira said.

Pastor Denford Chizanga of the Africa Development Mission Trust (ADMT), a charitable organisation that helps the poor and vulnerable, said the trust will have a different approach to Christmas this year.

“In the past, we used to distribute foodstuffs to the needy during Christmas.

“Although we are going to do the same this year, our major focus is on mitigating the effects of the coronavirus.

“We are doing this by drilling boreholes in areas that are facing critical water shortages,” he said.

According to Pastor Chizanga, his trust has drilled more than 63 boreholes in Mhondoro in the past two months.

“To the people of Mhondoro, we are saying that this is your Christmas present. We are in the middle of a pandemic and the only gift that we can give you is clean water which will help in the fight against the coronavirus.”

With Covid-19 still among us, Christmas will, without doubt, be novel.