Christmas was one of the most magical times of my childhood. First, it was part of the long end of year holiday, which meant no holiday homework as we were moving on to the next class. My mom encouraged me and my siblings to go out and play with our friends, unlike other holidays where they’d be questions over our grades and insistence that we spend the morning hours on school work. I hated this as it felt like it ruined the whole point of a holiday. Thankfully, I didn’t have to worry about this in December and even got to catch up with my favourite cartoons (mostly reruns of Saber Rider, Transformers, Dexter’s Labarotory) with no complaints.

The best thing about Christmas though, was the family traditions. These are the things that would make Christmas special as they only happened during this time. We didn’t go upcountry over Christmas as my grandparents had passed away and so it became our tradition to have Christmas at home in Nairobi. There was clothes shopping to be done and my mom would take us to town to buy new clothes and shoes and it was a serious affair as this was the only time you could get a new wardrobe. Also, one of the outfits you chose would be what you would wear on Christmas day so you had to be very deliberate in your choices. To make room for the new clothes, we’d clear our wardrobes of anything we had outgrown and give them away to churches and other charity organizations. We also bought decorations during this time and would diligently decorate the house with balloons and mushainos (I’ve never known what the English word for them is) and set up a Christmas tree.

It was also the only time we could have all kinds of food including sweet desserts without being scolded. My dad spoilt us (and our teeth) rotten here. He’d buy all four of us their own ice-cream 1 litre tab on Christmas day. We each had our favourite flavours (mine being strawberry ripple) and they’d be in the freezer where you could eat it at your own leisure. There’s one special Christmas where my dad had gotten a bonus at work and went all out buying us the fancy ice-cream filled with M&Ms and Mars chocolate. It’s one of those memories I keep at hand when I want to remember what it feels like to squeal with delight and feel like I’ve tasted heaven.

Speaking of heaven, my mom’s cooking is delicious. We’d help out in the kitchen by doing all the chopping of vegetables, washing dishes and setting the table and then watch as my mom conjured up a feast. The pilau, soft chapatis, salads, macaroni and cheese and the fried chicken were my favourites and we would pace the kitchen unable to hide our anticipation. My dad would take out all the Christmas music tapes and play various carols, Kenyan choir songs and of course Bonnie M’s ‘Mary’s Boy Child’ and we’d all sing along. After stuffing ourselves silly, we’d sit in the living room and watch Christmas themed family movies. I honestly cannot count the number of times I’ve watched movies like ‘Home Alone’ and ‘Christmas Shoes’.

Fastforward to 2016 and a lot has changed. It’s not that Christmas has stopped being magical, I guess it’s that adulting has made me a little cynical. I find the spending ridiculous and do it begrudgingly and as an adult, I do most of the cooking along with my sister (though it’s not as awesome as my mother’s). Unfortunately, the buying of clothes isn’t special anymore as I can buy clothes whenever I want now. We’ve also moved out of home so the decorating as a family isn’t a thing anymore. Still, the essence of Christmas which is spending time with your loved ones is present and is even more important now as we get older.

Losing traditions as we get older doesn’t mean there should be a vacuum. (Though I suspect this won’t be an issue once we have kids of our own.) My siblings and I have been going out of our way to create new traditions or to incorporate some new elements into existing ones. For one, as we don’t see one another as much as we used to when we lived under the same roof, we go out for a movie on Boxing Day. I also meet up with my sister on Christmas Eve and we do the cooking from my apartment and then take it over to my folks’ house. I missed the decorations this year and decided there was no one stopping me from putting up a few in my own apartment. I got a miniature tree, plastic though, and a mushaino to put on it. In a way, I suppose the magic is the realization that I am not alone and I am loved. Also, to remember that I have the power to do some good in the world. I still remember to give away clothes and foodstuff to charity and to cook extra food to give the watchman that’ll be on duty on Christmas Day at my apartment building. Christmas isn’t about the grand gestures, but the little things that make the world a little less dark.

What traditions did your family have when you were growing up? Have they changed? What are your fondest memories? What do you look forward to now? Share your story on my Facebook page using the hashtag #Homeiswheretheheartis and #SafaricomXmas. The best stories will win you 2,000 bob worth of airtime or a new phone – LG  G4 LTE and Tecno C9s!

mwendeLifestyleMwende saysChristmas,Kenya,Safaricom,Traditions
  Christmas was one of the most magical times of my childhood. First, it was part of the long end of year holiday, which meant no holiday homework as we were moving on to the next class. My mom encouraged me and my siblings to go out and play with...