During December, different people arereflecting on what Christmas means to them. Here,Martha Nakiranda tells us about Christmas in Uganda.
I would like to say that everything I do at Christmas is centred on celebrating Christs birth. My mother tongue renders Christmas as amazaalibwa - birthday or birth. But when I wrote what Christmas means to me, I realised it would need much editing.
I could not see much Christ in the Christmas. I mostly saw siku nkuu which is the origin of the Luganda word ssekukkulu. Siku nkuu is a big, important, great day. (Pardon my Swahili if it should be incorrect.) However, editing of my writing will not change my person, so I present my thoughts as they are and then so help me God.
Christmas is Christmas-carols, Christmas-cantata, Christmas-production, things like that. A do by any name is still a do. Hymnal Choir, Watotos Cantata, Namirembe Carols by Candlelight, Kampala Singers, to mention but a few. I feel almost duty bound to put in an appearance at each church. Besides to miss some of these is to declare oneself socially backward in Kampala Christian society. Alright, I exaggerate a wee bit. But Christmas is about carols. Not so much the wondrous message of the nine lessons as the wonderful music; amazing singing, awesome playing and acrobatic dancing. I really love Christmas!
Ssekukkulu also means economic adjustments. A bonus at work and a Christmas sale at a telecom company brought me a phone. The transport industry neutralizes my euphoria. The fares soar above the clouds. Food prices are similar. They balloon and float out of reach.
But still I look forward to Christmas. I get to see family, relatives and long lost friends. Christmas is about going to the village. I live in Kampala (the city) but my home is in Bulamagi, a village in Iganga. For the three-hour journey I would pay about USh 10,000 (2.50) one way - that is worth much more in Uganda than it is elsewhere. At Christmas, I would casually have to part with between USh 30,000 and 50,000 for the same journey and I would have to wrestle my way into the public 14-sitter taxi. Thats just the way it is. And it makes Christmas.
Another Christmas highlight is food. It was always at Christmas that Mother introduced new things. Christmas at 7am brought jam on bread, cheese came at 10am, spaghetti came in later, and a lot more.
We consume a lot of meat too and that is special to Christmas. In the village, goats are slaughtered on the 22nd. Some is eaten that night as fresh goat stew and some is smoked for later consumption. 23rd is pork, 24th is beef. Father is the meat buyer. 25th is smoked versions of all three and fresh chicken. Earlier it was Grandma but now Mother knows which chicken will meet its maker and which bananas will be harvested.
Christmas without food is No, I just cant imagine it. In fact the Lusoga phrase for celebrating it is Kulya Ssekuukulu which is eating Christmas. I have been asked, Where will you eat Christmas this year?
When I eat Christmas at home, that morning, be it a Tuesday or a Friday, is the best Sunday morning ever. Singing birds, bright sunshine, lush green and cool gentle breezes. It may all seem a clich but if you came to Bulamagi on Christmas morn
Goodwill and generosity abound. Everyone greets everyone: Isuuka Lunaku (congratulations on getting to the day). Hot charcoal-filled iron boxes migrate from homestead to homestead, neighbours use each others wash shelters to speed up preparations for going to church, the rare slice of bread is dispatched as breakfast for the old woman who lives alone.
Later the collection in church will be twice as much as the total collection for the rest of the year. The generosity carries on to lunch time when the children will for once have more than enough to eat and no one will rebuke them for starting off with the precious piece of meat. Hot covered dishes will traverse compounds as neighbours send each other portions of their Christmas meal. Everybody seems happy to share and show care on this one day.
That is what makes me long for my village at Christmas. It is what makes me think, Christmas is the best time of the year! The meal is long and evening comes slow and unburdened. Christmas ends. A bit of an anticlimax, I always feel.
For many years I struggled with Christmas not being about Christ. I then decided to live so that everyday is about Christ. If I live thus, empowered by the Holy Spirit, I will only have Christdays and every mass I go to will be Christmas. All the good I love at Christmas will be replicated daily.
When I have children, I will teach them too to live thus. They too will teach the neighbours children and then their children and then their childrens children and then
Merry Christmas everyday forever!
Martha Nakiranda from Uganda