I am a paradox of needs. When I celebrate Christmas in Kenya, I miss the quiet Swedish Christmas. When in Sweden, I miss the crowded, noisy Christmas in Kenya.
Kenyan Christmases are a noisy feast, due to the mere fact that everybody available is invited. Most adults will bring their favorite music with them and dancing will start before food is served. Children are let loose in the country side to play, sing, hide and seek. Adults catching up loudly while music plays in the background. It is not necessarily Christmas carols. People will dance, talk, laugh and eat all at once.
In Sweden, a melancholic people to start with, noise is frowned at. The voices need to be low. Music is low-key and definitely more Christmassy than anything else. It is cold outside so children and adults are cooped up indoors, itching to get out and breath. Or, watching the lined up Christmas shows on TV, starting with Donald Duck 15:00 pm. Yes, it is a Swedish Christmas tradition to watch Donald Duck at Christmas.
Whereas the Kenyan Christmas guest list is unplanned or loosely planned, and the Kenyan Christmas dinner is never served. Swedish Christmas dinner is served promptly at 18:30 on the 24th, December. The table is set for a pre-planned number of people for a pre-set length of time. An eyebrow or two will be raised if any uninvited person shows up for Christmas.
Although I have never seen anything get slaughtered for Swedish Christmas dinner, in both Kenya and Sweden, the food and alcohol plans cannot be faulted. Everything is bought from the grocery store. Not even a butcher’s store! Swedish Christmas delicacies are almost the same as midsummer delicacies, only fatter and warmer. Alcohol-wise, the Swedish Christmas plans, are similar to Kenya’s, meticulous.
Basically, Christmas and baby Jesus are not welcome into a Kenyan Christmas until:
- Since something has to be slaughtered for a Kenyan Christmas, the goat, sheep, or cow is tied outside grandmother’s house in Nyeri or Meru.
- Sometimes, it is just a measly bird (hen or cockerel), but still! As long as something dies for Christmas!
- The grill for nyama choma – roasted/grilled meat – is in its place with a sack of coal beside it.
- The sacks of rice and sugar, the gallon of oil, the bucket of cooking fat, the bales of wheat and maize floor and the vegetables have been acquired.
- Alcohol has taken its respected Place:
- A couple of Tusker crates – the number one selling beer in Kenya – are purchased.
- The whisky bottles are delivered from the cities or
- The Muratina and chang’aa is brewed by one of the older relatives in the countryside. Finally, sleeping arrangements are made.
- Extra mattresses and blankets are acquired and extra space is borrowed from willing friends and neighbours.
On the 24th, at the same time the Swedes are preparing for Christmas dinner, in Kenya, someone is being assigned the chicken-catcher role. To make things fun, the bird earmarked for Christmas dinner is let out to graze with the rest of the birds. On the 25th, as the Swedes wake up to leftovers and hangovers, the hen or cockerel is running the catcher in circles around the village trying to avoid being caught. Uninvited villagers and guests can easily get caught up in the chicken-catching drama. The bird will be caught, eventually.
As a child, I was the best bird-catcher according to dad, outrunning a hen in ten minutes. As an adult, I cannot run to save my life.
In Kenya, the cooking, grilling and drinking starts on the 24th and continues to the 26th. No table is really set, and everyone present is busy preparing and serving something to eat or drink. By 15th December, the relatives with wives and children start to arrive wherever the party is at. There is no knowing how many people will show up for Christmas, so you buy enough provisions for double the number of people you think may show up.
And voila! Jesus is welcome!
How was Christmas like where you are? And what’s the plan for New Year?