How do you spend Christmas back home? Such a simple question but for me it warrants some reflection. Home could mean the UK where I lived before moving to France or it could mean Tanzania, where I grew up. Today however, I’d rather dream about Christmas as a little girl.
For us back then, Christmas was not so much about presents nor over-indulging in luxury goods that are thrown at us in the West. However, we did have other kinds of indulgences. We indulged in family time, play time and a good old laugh. This magical time always took place in Moshi at my babu’s house, a large enough house to host all of his seven children and their children. My grandparents (and other villagers included) who were borderline illiterate, prided themselves with their well educated children whom they had sent to study in big cities, where they would later find employment and settle down. As a result of this shift from villages to cities, notably Dar-es-Salaam, the villagers were absolutely thrilled to welcome back their sons & daughters and their grandchildren. Christmas as it were, was all about families being reunited.
As rules were more relaxed at babu’s, us children did not waste a minute in seizing the opportunity. When the night fell, we would congregate in a chosen bedroom and curl-up under our blankets, ready for our prolonged evening entertainment, which lasted way past our bedtime. There was no such thing as central heating but our little bodies emitted enough heat to keep ten of us warm. Once cosy enough, the night would be transformed into our own very theatre, with much amusement coming from the stories that we told to each other. I would listen intently as one cousin would recount a tale about the crazy old man across the road – to the other cousin affirming a visit from a scary ghost, who counted all his toes whilst he was sleeping – and so forth. We cringed and laughed like no tomorrow!
Come Christmas eve, we would get dressed up and head to midnight mass. The way was pitch-black and rather treacherous, but none of us seemed to care. For us ‘city kids’ clearly used to getting around by cars, navigating streams, waterfalls and finally climbing a big hill to get to the church – was just as scary as passing a driving test, but we took it on the chin. If you took a fall, you simply got up and ran off to catch up with the others.
Christmas day in itself was a feast to be experienced. We indulged in our tribal food and drink – and by definition, being a mchaga (a tribe from Moshi) you did not consider anything a meal if it did not contain meat. My grandfather and all his male progenies would scoot off to the slaughter shed, far away from women. A roasted life-size goat would later be presented on the table, with a leaf sticking out of it’s mouth, ready to be curved and devoured. No presents of any kind were exchanged but nevertheless, we were simply thrilled to share the moment together, especially as this was the only time of the year when everybody was under the same roof. We did not have a lot of decorations for a Christmas tree but we made an effort to create a grotto, where we put a few statues that we had, including that of baby Jesus, the virgin Mary and the three kings.
After Christmas it was time to go back to the city and start a new school year. Looking back today, it has been almost three decades since I lived such pure and loving moments. As of today, I’ve been lucky enough to experience the joy of Christmas in the presence of my in-laws in Germany. With the two countries being so different, I was astonished by the closeness of our shared values. Even though I am miles away from my country, I’ve come to appreciate Christmas again for what it once was – just spending some quality time with family.
I wish you a Merry Christmas with your loved ones. And I’d like to extend my gratitudes to you for reading my stories this year. I wish you a happy and a prosperous 2018. Until then, Live Love Laugh x