Heri ya Krismasi (Merry Christmas!)
Everybody loves Christmas, right? The universally-accepted time of year to delve head first into the party spirit, overeat, overdrink, overspend, and generally wade in frivolity for the best part of a week. This December was the first I’ve been in London for a while. And despite being unwillingly ploughed into the spirit of Christmas advertising as far back as September, and the first lights appearing in all their prematurity by first week of November, I’ll admit to having loved the joviality of London’s festive buzz, taking my niece to Santa’s Grotto, gift-wrapping, drinking hot chocolate, pottering around the West End beneath an awning of sparkly decorations, shops full of things you really don’t need but contemplate buying anyway. It’s just fun. Fun and decadent, frivolous and indulgent, extravagant and a little bit gluttonous. In London that is.
It’s easy to forget that Christmas exists outside of this bubble of wonderful madness. We vaguely pause on the awareness that this is a religious celebration, a time to be charitable (helped along by more television advertising), a day which some are spending in far less fortunate circumstances… but for the most part we are quite commonly agreed that the real meaning of Christmas is a little bit lost.
This is what I love most about Christmas in Kenya. There is a sense of comradery amongst those who have far less in the material sense. They share. And sharing here is not about giving gifts, buying excessively (the everyday person simply wouldn’t be able to afford it), or preparations six months in advance so as not to dissolve under the racing-clock pressure. The question “what are you doing for Christmas?” is rare. The day comes and goes like every other. But it is a day of church going, family time, or gathering with friends if you work away from home. People travel back from the cities to their home towns or villages where festivities include nyama choma (roast meat) on the fire, hymns & Christmas carols, catching up with family...
And you know what? Kenyans are happy. They really, really are some of the friendliest, happiest, most jovial people you’ll ever wish to meet. I have always said it simply isn’t possible to be lonely in Kenya and I mean it. If you are considered a rafiki (friend) you’ll partake in a round of drinks, be invited to someone’s home, party the night away, and celebrate Christmas the way it’s really meant to be celebrated.
Heri ya Krismasi everyone!