Back in the days Christmas was a real event. It was not about Santa Claus and Christmas trees. People wore the excitement on their faces as the day drew nearer.
Children counted down the days as they meticulously collected small notes for the official Christmas treat: banana pancakes and over diluted quencher juice in soda bottles would be plenty.
Every year families trekked back to their places of origin to flash the money they pretended to have been making in the towns for the rest of the year.
In Lumino, a small urban centre, a few kilometers from the Kenya – Uganda border, the town wakes up from a deep eleven month slumber in December.
Back in the days, it was a big fuss about acquiring for the festive season clothes, shoes and even having meat. Shops sold shiny clothes and played loud music.
In those days, a Christmas without a new pair of plastic Sandak shoes was like a trip to hell for any child. A simple scrub before a generous smear of Vaseline was enough.
The shoes would shine in the hot sun for the rest of the day, carrying along all the dust one gathered. The sun soaked into the plastic and baked your feet to high heavens.
When the baking reached the extreme , the shoes would just be carried home in the hands for the rest of the day. The point is, you had to have new Sandak shoes on December 25th.
The women and girls had real woes. Three days to the D-Day, they would ‘burn’ their hair with metallic combs heated over charcoal stoves.
To make it worse, they would apply a disgusting mixture of avocadoes, eggs and whatever else, in their hair to give it a soft straight jet black look.
The only thing not pleasant was the pungent smell which oozed from this hair treatment. The climax of Christmas in Lumino was the football bonanza on Boxing Day.
A number of football teams from around the border area would clash for a day of lazy football for members of the local Samia tribe which strides the Kenya – Uganda border.
One interesting fact is that, for a long time the Kenyan team, however how well trained, had never managed to take the trophy home.
The trick was in the waragi. In Kenya where it was called changaa, it’s illegal to drink or sell it while in Uganda you can as well have it for breakfast.
So the Kenyans took their trip to Uganda, a few kilometers away, like manna from above. They would begin sipping the ‘Nubian gin’ as soon as they checked in. By the time they hit the pitch, they would hardly be in a position kick the ball.
Meanwhile as the matches went on the villagers would revel in their only big event of the year. They would watch a movie, dance the night away in some disco, be treated to some a chapatti stew or drink a proper beer in a brown bottle for the first time in that calendar year.
And that would be enough to provide memories that would last till the next Christmas season.