Christmas in Kigali is different to what I am used to having lived in the UK for nearly 15 years. I had grown accustomed to the usual cliché, Santa Claus, jingle bells, Christmas trees and snow.
We have actually made an effort this year to decorate the city with festive lights and decorations. It is still a totally different experience to what you get in the West.
Firstly, it is not Christmas it is “Noheri.” A totally different event but warmer and more cordial all the same.
The scorching temperatures made it very hard for me to even remind myself it was Christmas time. The previous days had seen me dishing out to people, as is the apparent custom here.
The actual day almost caught me unawares until I got a text reminding me of the family feast I was nearly late for. Every culture is the same; it is family, family, family.
Hugs and kisses, backslapping, rubbing heads together and jokes galore. The same jokes you hear every year, reminding you of your childhood naughtiness, how I had strangely shaped head when I was young.
The food is always hearty; it is usually the only moment of silence as people gorge themselves on tonnes of food.
Then we lay back dazed from “food drunkardness” when your belly is so full that it would not be safe to drive a vehicle.
Then comes the entertainment. Children are forced to embarrass themselves with singing and dancing as is always the tradition except when I was young they didn’t have cameras in every phone. So a lifetime of embarrassment awaits.
The best moments are the personal one on ones, like an older man teaching a young teenager how to dance traditional Rwandese dancing.
The heated debate on matters trivial and serious, old scores from childhood brought up to unanimous sighing.
That is when you realise the importance of Christmas for society. To remind us that we are all one.