Kenneth Kizito Asimwe is a project coordinator for Bright Hope Uganda. Here he shares his memories of Christmastime as a Ugandan child.
Growing up in a rural Uganda, our Christmas was always filled with fun. We would get together as a family. All our uncles and their children gathered at our grandparents’ home. The numbers would rise to at least forty people on Christmas Eve.
We chased chickens that were to be prepared for the meal. They ran all over the place, but we enjoyed running them out of steam. A cow from the farm accompanied the chickens and we always had a lot of meat.
At about 4 a.m. on Christmas, you were woken up by the sound of pans from the kitchen. All our mothers were in there. Some were preparing breakfast while others worked on lunch. The aroma from the kitchen made you wish Christmas was every day. The smell of the Christmas tree is also a memory, it made the house smell fresh and Christmas. We never had the plastic type. We always went around the village looking for the best tree from our neighbor’s fences. It was free as long as you asked the owner.
We all sat on the floor in a big circle and served breakfast before we prepared for church. Chicken and cow’s liver were the delicacy on that morning, with a lot of plantains and milk.
It was a ranch, so all these things were readily available. We had no need to buy them.
Then we would all pull out our best attire for church. That is when your new shirt, trousers, dress or shoes would get a chance to be exhibited. One time my brother burnt my new trouser as he ironed, but this did not stop me from wearing it. It had to do its job for that particular day. No one stayed home except our granny to keep the food on the fire until we returned.
At church everyone dressed in their best, and they all talked louder that day: “sekukulu enungi” (Merry Christmas) they greeted each other. Prayers were made short on Christmas to allow families go and spend Christmas together. However, each family got a chance to introduce their children and all the people that belonged to that family. The priest would then introduce newcomers in the community and dismiss the crowd.
We returned home to be greeted by those very big black pans still steaming on the fire. There was always one with meat, one with plantains or matoke, as we call it, rice and other small ones with chicken. There were salads, peanut sauce, potatoes and much more.
We resumed circle drill for everyone to partake of the Christmas meal. There was so much to eat. We always kept some for supper and went off to play. The adults would sit around the compound as more guests from the neighborhood flocked in. They talked and laughed loudly and enjoyed roasted meat with local brew. We never understood what they talked about as they lowered their voices every time we came close. “Mugende muzanye” (go and play) they shouted at us. We played hide-and-seek, football, dodge, and many more games till evening fell and we were told to go shower.
It was always a fun-filled Christmas. Now I am trying to recreate it for my children, but life moves so fast today and getting everyone together in the village is not that easy. Yet I want them to know this day as a day for salvation and connection.