Countdown to Christmas: what we love or loathe

Sunday December 16 2018


By Andrew Kaggwa

It is December again!
Almost all companies are half closed, schools have closed off and of course, the big shops in Kampala have successfully covered themselves in glitter.
We cannot also forget a fact that all playlists have been taken over by legendary artiste Philly Lutaaya thanks to his evergreen Christmas album with songs such as Tumusinze, and azzaalidwa.
While growing up, this was the perfect time to get the new shirt and shoes the parents had promised us in May, and good thing was that if you did not get the two items, you would get at least one.
Yet as you grow up, this particular month becomes a dreadful one, and sometimes, money has nothing to do with it.

It is the time people have designated as the annual family get-together month; you will go for a get-together at your mother’s, father’s and later, you may unluckily end up in a Q&A session at your girlfriend’s.

Get together for Q&As
It is a whole month of catching up, meeting cousins you have not met in a long time as well as defending some of the Facebook posts you put online, forgetting your uncles are following you.
For most of the times, such gatherings are usually the perfect time for an aunt to question your prolonged single marital status; “you mean you cannot ‘wife’ one of those girls whose pictures we keep seeing on your timeline?”

Sometimes, as a single person, these events make it hard for you to contribute to any topic as any slight mistake will get someone telling you off with a; “get married..”

A friend one time had it rough, she had been out of a job and had opened up about it to only a few people, the wrong aunt heard about it when the news landed onto the wrong aunt, she was not afraid to joke; “Your bosses said such amazing things about you at the wedding, did not believe they could let you go.”

On another day, a nosy uncle would easily question why you went abroad without telling them, like they had to give you permission to step onto the plane or wanted to flag you off like a delegate.
Of course get-together and at times become that one chance uncle so and so will want to settle a score with an aunt they disagree with; it may start with one asking you to tell the DJ to change the music probably from gospel to secular and before you know, you will be caught up in a back and forth subtle communication by adults.
To some people, going back home always presents part of your untold life story. There are people you grow up with and later respect in life but at times barely give them attention. When you get to your grandparents, someone brings up a story of how this particular person once paid your father’s school fees.

“Now when you get this fresh information, clearly your grandmother is not just informing you, they are actually telling you that these people must be a priority too,” says Charles Nyakana adding that at times, you find yourself going to the nearest town to do impromptu shopping for them.
Yet for Douglas Benda, the worry of going home is usually primed around faith and choices he has made; “people will ask about the last time you went to church while other aunts will start criticising your choice of hairstyle,” he says adding that most times, you find yourself calling and asking which relatives are around so as to travel well-prepared.

The annoying cousins
But of course none of these will get you cringing like that know-it-all cousin. He used to diss your choice of university course and he has so far graduated to dissing your current workplace.
He somehow believes you really need his validation to eventually consider that you have made it in life.
Such cousins are usually caught up in conversations with fellow snobs, those that have returned to Uganda for holidays, they think life rotates around them since they have spent months in Trump’s US.

While conversing, one of them will comment about the bad roads saying; “back home in Alabama, systems actually work...”
And of course there are those relatives that could have left Uganda when you were just a child or unemployed and hustling, when they come back, almost 10 years later, they will want to believe you are the same person they bossed around.

The changing face
Just like these cousins have changed, Christmas too has changed over the years. For instance there were times when Christmas was the day when rice was served in plenty, Irish potatoes and above it all chicken and stomachache effects. Today, all these things present themselves to us without trying, where chicken would cost a leg and arm, these days it comes off as a fast food you are forced to eat because it is affordable.
This most of the times has left Christmas for the creative ones, those that can steam beans and turn them into meat and later bake them, if there is even a thing like that.

Christmas today calls for things that are totally out of the box, taking people to cinemas and amusement parks is no longer a thing since all these things have come closer to home that they are no longer special.
And then of course, plastic trees have totally killed the culture of cutting down banana plantations and cypress trees.

Food that never ‘gets ready’
Do we even need a prophet to tell us that food will be late on December 25?
This is one day that food in many homes in Uganda and probably East and Central Africa comes late.
For some reason, Christmas food starts cooking early, by 5pm on December 24, chicken and goats may lose their heads even earlier yet, by 1pm the next day, none of these are ready.

“There are times you have to go home and you want to avoid chores like fetching water, then you aim to reach at lunch time, but then you get there and realise lunch is still a longshot away ,” Benda says.
And of course the day starts like a disaster, imagine, some people go for the earliest church service, come home to warm breakfast but can only get it ready at 1pm.
Helen Namutebi, says she will be part of an all-girls celebration this year and as a norm, they have given each other cooking roles, someone will be in charge of meat and another person will handle baking, among other things.

“But what happens at times, one person maybe slow and the entire meal will slowdown,” she says.
Namutebi also believes food most of the times delays since people spend a lot of time catching up instead of making meals.
And sadly, it is that day that restaurants do not want to open. You could walk through the city and the only open eatery is offering burgers and pizza, but no one wants to eat this as a meal on 25.
To make matters worse, even restaurants that are open will have all these people that are ready to judge you for the decisions you have made, imagine a waitress asking to know whether you have a family!

Showbiz prayers
Of course, much as we spend a lot on ourselves on Christmas, the day is still about Jesus and that means prayers. For many people, this is the only day they go to church, the show up and learn the Grace, Our Father and all other sets of prayers have changed since they last walked through the walls.

But it is the same group of people that want to show everyone they came to church. They pray during day, call it the showbiz service, here all sorts of people with a new suit, shoes and retouched hairstyles show up.
Then there is that other group that comes to church but also loves their early morning sleep or those that do not fancy church and mostly want it kicked off in the best way possible.

These people will leave the bar at 10pm head off to the nearest church and pretend to pray, all in the name of having a prayer free Christmas.
But either way, this is a holiday we all love to enjoy and family is all we have at times, we may not know which questions you will be answering when you meet later this month or early in January, but all we can say now is a Merry Christmas to you all.