Safe Passage Christmas

I love Christmas carols. Except one.

I’ve always hated “Do they know it’s Christmas.” 

For multiple reasons:

  1. The victims of the Ethiopian famine that inspired the original song were Copts, so they bloody well did know it was Christmas.
  2. No, there wasn’t snow. But having never seen snow, why would the Ethiopians think of that as any great loss?
  3. Generalizing Africa, home of two of the world’s great river systems and some of the world’s densest jungle, as a place where nothing ever grows and no rain or river flows, is offensive to geography
  4. Generalizing it as “a world of dread and fear” is kind of omitting the fact that normal life is possible in Africa. People go to school, graduate, get married, have children and generally look for any excuse to squeeze joy out of an often admittedly desperate world. One thing they don’t need outsiders for, is to learn how to find happiness.
  5. Saying a prayer doesn’t put a meal on the plates of a single family. Neither does liking a tweet. Doing something to put your own mind at ease and doing something to help people in need are two different things.
  6. No, it isn’t that hard to step back and think for a minute while you’re enjoying Christmas. Not compared to what families at risk of famine have to do to get food, anyway.
  7. And finally…there’s something profoundly disturbing and lacking in empathy about the phrase “Thank God it’s them, instead of you.”


As people around the world get ready to celebrate Christmas, my SOS Méditerranée colleagues are still pulling boat after boat, group after group, family after family, refugee after refugee out of the water– at night, in driving rain and with waves twice as high as they were when I was there (follow the link for photos). 

This is the deadliest year on record in the Med– “the worst annual death toll ever seen.”

I’ve attempted to rehabilitate this horrid song in honour of the incredibly brave– or desperate, most often both– men and women who undertake this journey, and find themselves getting crushed under the wheels of society, uniquely because they were born with the wrong passport. Please help us if you can. 
It’s Christmastime,
there’s family and friends in town
At Christmastime,
we turn on the lights and we gather round
And in our world of safety
we can spread a smile of joy
But not all the boys and girls
get Christmastime

So let’s get mad
stand up for the other ones
At Christmastime it’s sad,
but when you’re having fun
There’s a world outside your window,
and it’s a world of fear and scorn
Where the only thing that matters
is the place where you were born
And the Christmas bells that ring there
are the sirens of police
Those with the wrong passport
won’t be released

And there won’t be snow in Libya this Christmastime
The greatest gift they’ll get this year is life (Oooh)
With salt water and bread
A hard floor for a bed
Do they get a Christmastime at all?

And there won’t be snow in Libya this Christmastime
The greatest gift they’ll get this year is life (Oooh)
Fleeing in a rubber boat
They’re lucky if it floats
Do they get a Christmastime at all?
Here’s to you and the gifts under the tree
Here’s to them and the boat upon the sea
Do they get a Christmastime at all?

Let’s get mad
See them safe to Christmastime again

Let’s get mad
See them safe to Christmastime again

About msmarguerite

Young Quebec City-based freelance journalist. once and future nomad. I blog about life, about travel, about things I notice and every so often about work. I enjoy language learning, singing, swing dancing, skating and...other stuff, sometimes. My heart is somewhere in East Africa, Haiti or Eastern Europe. English, français, русский, malo slovensko, un poco de espanol, um pouco de português ndiga ikirundi, mwen ap aprann kreyòl...
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