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Christmas Spirit Brewed in African Pot

How Christmas was celebrated in my village and how it is done in America differs profoundly. We didn?t have gifts to unwrap on Christmas morning. There were no cards to read. I saw a Christmas tree, for the first time, in Wyoming in 1986.

One aspect of my recollection of Christmas spirit in African is of a song, ?Kilisito nusyaiwe, ukai tutanee, Kilisito nusyaiwe, ukai tutanee? meaning Christ is born, come we rejoice. Christ is born, come we rejoice. This was sung by The Salvation Army (Salvation Army in Kenya is not a thrifty store, but a Christian church, that marches through shopping centers singing and preaching before heading to their sanctuary).

Their signing marked the beginning of a special day, a day when the rich and the poor ate alike. In almost every home, there was one meal, Chapati. The day before Christmas was when we slaughtered Christmas goats, but on Christmas day, we roasted, or cooked goat meat stew before neighbors and relatives from afar arrived. My father used to invite all.

From morning, chapati?s aroma filled the air. There was no isyo (corn and beans), ngima (cornmeal), sweet potatoes, arrowroots and millet or sorghum meals. Everything seemed to look or sound new, but brewed in African pot. Men, who had little or no exposure to the English language, after sipping few glasses of bear spoke English?to the best of their abilities. You could hear a man say, ?You me blood? meaning you are of my blood, i.e., a relative or ?You play don?t no more me with? meaning, you, don?t play with me anymore. My favorite was when someone, pointing at chapati said, ?Son, chapati eat?? meaning son, have you ate a chapati? The response to this sometimes was funny, too ?Me eat chapati, thank you sir, meaning I have eaten chapati, thank you sir. The structure of the language didn?t matter-it was Christmas.

This was the only day cows, goats, sheep and donkeys were tethered because their keepers were where the action was. The emptiness at the water springs attested to the importance of this day.

Christmas was the day almost every one went to church. I would never think of missing church on Christmas day. The preacher, Bishop Albanus Kioko always came to celebrate this occasion in my community. He used to tell stories that vividly presented spiritual issues in a unique inclusive manner. He also conducted mass absolution, only on Christmas for time pressed country and town dwellers. After a short sermon, 2 hours long, the bishop said the best words, ?Inukai misa niyathelaaa? meaning go home the mass is over. We responded, ?Utwike oouuuu? meaning let it be thus.

Then we went on celebrating Christmas without worrying about the gifts to be returned or thinking about whom to remove from your list because they didn?t send you a gift.

It was Christmas spirit brewed in African pot.

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