For me, 30 degrees and hot sunny weather never makes me feel Christmassy. The cold, dark, dreich nights in Edinburgh where the windows are filled with Christmas trees and bright coloured lights makes me feel much more festive. Dropping into a cosy, warm café for a seasonal hot chocolate is one of my favourite things (especially since it feels like your body must have worked off plenty of calories keeping itself warm, so there is very little guilt). Although the iconic image of waking up to a crisp, snowy Christmas day has never yet occurred for me in Scotland, yet, it’s still a romantic notion that is a distinct possibility in Edinburgh, unlike here, of course…To be honest, I kept forgetting that Christmas was almost upon me here in Kisumu, something I don’t think I could ever do back in the UK, where I was always bombarded by reminders of how many shopping days I still have left till Christmas day.
Actually, the lack of reminders that Christmas day was nearing was one of the best things about being in this tropical town on Lake Vic. I didn’t feel any sense of panic that the big day was around the corner. There was no sense of pressure or depression contemplating the awful truth that I still hadn’t bought a present for my Uncle Donald (who has everything anyway). Jostling about with the focussed, determined crowd along Princes Street realising that your feet are gradually getting more damp is an event that I’m happy to have missed in 2010. A quieter Christmas-time also gives your head a bit of space to reflect on why the 25th of December is a day of celebration in the first place.
Amelie's Christmas meal
There are some quirky sides to celebrating Christmas here, however. One of the things that surprised me, was the way a few people asked about my ‘X-mas
’, including my motorbike boy who asked if we celebrate X-mas in my country. It was very strange to hear Christmas being referred to as X-mas, in fact many people I know would say that it should never be called that, as Christ has been missed out of Christmas. I tend to think that mainly X-mas is just a lazier way to write a longish word, but I have no idea why people would call it that here.
Another X-mas tradition here, seemingly, is to wander around the centre of town aimlessly with your family. While driving in a taxi through Kisumu on Christmas, Em and I were astonished to see herds of people walking about around the malls. We have never seen so many people gathered in Kisumu, looking like crowds leaving a football match. Supposedly, it is the one time in the year that some children from outside of town get to come into town with their parents to look around (and do nothing, apparently). I guess those children are the lucky ones, though. Another interesting story we were told was that children are expected to come back to their parents on Christmas bearing gifts. Some kids not lucky enough to have a gift to bring, so end up not going home at all. What a special Christmas cheer that would be for the kids...
While there is definitely not the same amount of glitz and Christmas theatre that there is back in the UK, the little there is seems a bit out of place. At the malls in town, 2 Santa Claus’ dolls stood at the entrance playing American country music, for some unknown reason. At the same mall, some young people from a local church were dressed up as Santa and his elf doing face-painting and handing out sweets. It is a bit weird to see an African Santa Claus and I have never seen a Santa with such good dance moves as this one had. Also, hearing ‘I’m dreaming of a white Christmas’ doesn’t seem as fitting here in Kenya as it does back in Scotland.
Santa and AZ
Well, at least the neighbours knew how to celebrate, serving us fried cow stomach when we passed by to share Christmas cheer. Maybe it’s the local substitute for mulled wine and mince pies.
Sharing sodas and bread with the guards at our estate on Christmas
New Years eve found us at our mission organisation’s retreat somewhere around Nairobi, in a coffee-growing region called Ruiru. One of the many good things about the conference was that a ceilidh had been organised for everyone despite there being only 3 Scots. One of the Scots ladies who lives in Khartoum called the dances, while myself and Gran Pat frae Ayr demonstrated.
Dancing with GranPat
Most folks were from the States or Oz, so hadn’t ever done a ceilidh before, but everyone was up for it. As part of the evening’s entertainment, we explained to people what type of animal a haggis was and how it was hunted. The kids then went on their own haggis hunt capturing haggis out around the grounds. As weel, the evening was a chance to educate the ignorant masses in the guid Scots tongue, wurds like ‘glaikit’, ‘midden’, ‘girnin’, ‘dreich’ and ‘besom’. Before the end of the night, we all sang Auld Lang Syne drawing 2010 to a close while thinking what 2011 might bring.
Happy New Year from David, Em and Am!