This weekend, it’s the Christmas Market in Lincoln. I rarely go into the city at this time but yesterday I did.
It’s the usual mayhem – and this was just on a Saturday morning, I’m told it’s much more crowded when it’s dark- with thousands of people puffing and panting their way from the lower ground at the bottom of the city, up Steep Hill – and it is – to the Cathedral Quarter at the top of the city. I walked down the hill against the flow. The crowd was that dense it was difficult to pass.
The castle and the asylum grounds were open and were filled with the usual Christmas market stuff, tat and tacky gifts, mulled wine with a side order of fast food. I’ll give you that the surroundings are very special with the 1000 year old cathedral as a backdrop. And yes, at night I’m sure it provides a very special experience but, it all seems like a senseless waste of money.
I was talking to a Big Issue vendor. I asked him if he sold more papers at this event. He said he did, slightly, but that it was ‘overwhelming’. It was all too much for him and he was going home. This excess just made me think of those who have little, and how this time of year must magnify the differences.
The Jehovah’s Witnesses occupy their usual spot under the Medieval ‘Stonebow’ arch in centre of the city; all glowing, well fed faces with their leaflets and signage, “Find Family Happiness” it said. A homeless man with his swaddled canine friend sat nearby, the ghosts of Christmas shoppers drift by, faceless.
I was struck by the tragic image created. Have’s and have not’s all in one frame. Religion and poverty side by side. Trite, hollow, unhelpful messages about imaginary friends and yet they seem oblivious to the tragedy at their feet. The Christian message – at least as I understand it – seems weak in them, perhaps in us all – and that’s from an atheists.
I’m reminded of some time spent in India when we experienced Langar* at a Gurdwara provided by the followers of Sikhism. Free food is provide for all. Langar is provided by Sikhs all around the world. Iv’e seen it in Birmingham. The Sikh community provides excellent free food to those in need, or indeed anybody who wishes to take it. That’s what you call a caring community.
*served to all, without distinction of religion, caste, gender, economic status or ethnicity.