In a country where Christianity was introduced in the late 19th century, with about 94% of its population being Christian, one would think that Christmas would have been celebrated in a bigger way than how we see it today.
Unlike in the other East African countries which celebrate Christmas to the fullest, observations through out the years have shown that Rwanda celebrates the New Year more than Christmas.
According to a cross section of people whom this reporter talked to, many of them attribute this culture to the fact that they regard ending the year alive more important than any other thing.
“There is much more joy on the New Year’s Day for me and I have all the reasons to celebrate,” says Emma Higiro.
It is not true that Rwandans do not celebrate Christmas, but the extent they value this day compared to other countries is so small and yet many believe in Jesus who was born on this day.
“I do believe in Jesus and it is always important to remember his birthday on the 25th of December, but then I believe in celebrating the first of another year because it is the time I get the chance to thank the same Jesus for allowing me to end the year when I am still alive,” says Justine Umurerwa.
In countries like Uganda, it is on Christmas day that those who do not normally go to church wake up early for the first mass. In fact, the Christmas celebrations start, as early as 22 December.
However, in Rwanda if someone does not go to church normally, then it is a normal working day and this culture is growing each year.
“I do not see any reason as to why I should close my shop on Christmas and yet it is on this day that I am likely to get many customers. I have to utilise the chance of the high demand that comes with the day to make more money,” says Theodore Kiiza, a garments dealer in Remera.
It is on January1 that you get amazed. All shops in the city will be closed and all the streets will be deserted, parties everywhere will be the order of the day.
“It is on the first that I have to enjoy and end the year in style. I also have to rest and am off work on this day so I can begin another year with a fresh mind,” says Pierre Ngabo, a sales person.
On the night of the New Year, in Rwanda, everyone will hardly sleep ranging from the smallest child in the family to the head of the family all waiting for the New Year so that they can celebrate and make merry for making it there. It is then that every body will start telling the other ‘Bonne anee’ till late January.