In life some of my fondest memories are those of the Christmases of my childhood. Christmas was the most important event of one’s life. One you get a set of new clothes, two, you get to eat chapatti and green peas, and sometimes wings of a good local chicken, three, you get to drink soda and a few bottles of it and fourth of all, you get to play with all your nephews and kin.
Christmas was THE event of the year, considering that the time between two Christmases was like five years.
It took so long form one celebration to the other so much so that you had to buy new pair of Sandak shoes, polish them everyday with Vaseline to maintain the shine of plastic, treasure them like the treasure they were really are.
Church was the parade for new clothes and shoes. A Christmas day would not be complete without a traveling cinema, which depending on how old you were and how easy going your parents were, was a select event for the stubborn kids who brought January school day breaks down with those unending narratives of Bruce Lee or Jackie Chan movies. That was in the late eighties in the western Kenyan town of Bungoma.
In Uganda, Christmas was and is still another festival all together. But just like in Kenya, Christmas marks the biggest urban-rural migration in the history of whichever. They dust their Sunday bests and take an exodus to the places of origin.
They empty the towns as if there were an epidemic of swine flu in the urban areas and for once chose to live in the rural dust which we are made of.
In rural Uganda, there is general lawful massacre of animals – cattle, pigs, chicken and of late, even turkeys. Moslem animal slaughters are in big business because no one knows who will or will not buy the meat.
Then, to go with the meat, are thousands of bunches of bananas, sacks of rice, saucepans of local dishes to go along with.
You would think, Christ died so that men and women can eat. Not always, the churches fill with people who want to seek forgiveness for their ever increasing annual load of sins, never mind that while in the towns they spend their Sundays ‘resting.’
It is a pity that the birth of Christ is no longer a religious feast but a feast for everyone who would like to have a good time.
In my home village in Busia, Christmas is that time when women delight is showcasing their cooking prowess, to the extent of missing the Christmas mass while men display their ability to soak alcohol all day long, along roasting and munching goat and still get away with it.
Children save the best for the village town centre tour, to drink over diluted fake orange juice and some poorly made mandazi.
The centerpiece of my village Christmas is a classic international football tournament between Kenya and Uganda.
By international, I mean Kenyans within ten kilometers of the border match up with Ugandans within about the same distance in Uganda, both who are effectively distant relatives, but blood or kinship aside, it is still viewed as a titanic Kenya verses Uganda clash.
The soccer tournament has little to do either soccer itself, no wonder the tournament is always hosted on the Uganda side.
The players are potbellied fellows from Kampala or Nairobi who spend their year slaving and eating nyama choma or pork, in Kenya or Uganda respectively. It is just a boy’s day out.
The fun is the day is that Kenya always loses not because their talents on the pitch are any less that for their counterparts. In Uganda, unlike Kenya, it is legal to drink the local gin called waragi in Uganda or Changaa in Kenya.
So the Kenyans, apart from a free trip to Uganda enjoy the free roam in local liquor places without the fear of being arrested like they would been, back at home. So when they hit the pitch, the ball is playing them instead of the other way round.
My village is not the most interesting place to spend a Christmas holiday, but like everywhere else, Christmas is a unique cultural do that has accumulated years of belief and customs that are worthy of the day. Christmas is no longer an imported culture from the west.
We in Africa like with many other western imports have learnt to copy, own and perfect them in our own special way, though I do not urge anyone to go the way of alcohol this Christmas, even though I know you are not going to listen to me and might be probably heading to that small corner where tipsiness and voluntary high moods are on sale in bottles of various mixtures of man’s greatest weakness, and may be woman’s.
I wonder where you will spend your Christmas!