It is that time of year, we can officially let down our hair, take stock and make merry without a care for the woes of January.
We set aside our politics, our disagreements and comfortably revel in the season of no news. The last time news invaded our Christmas in 2019, Covid-19 ensconced us. No news is good news.
January right now is a figment of our imagination. School fees and other obligations are temporarily invisible. It is that time of year where for nearly two weeks, days flow seamlessly into each other. Every day is the weekend. Time is of no relevance while our bellies are full and hearts brimming with cheer.
The binge eating, the wearing of new clothes, the ferrying of goodies to the village, the yearly return of our ‘outside countries’ people alongside the exodus of town dwellers to their villages is in full swing. In many a home, Christmas trees have colonized our sitting rooms.
Christmas brings back heady memories - of following my older siblings and cousins trawling our neighbourhood for a hapless neighbour’s natural fence from which to harvest our Christmas tree. Throughout the year, the neighbours laboriously tended to their natural ‘Christmas tree’ fences, only foras to harvest them with premium entitlement and zero guilt involved.
Now, we have arrived. The convenience of supermarket shopping receives our ka money joyously. Christmas trees now come from the supermarket, immaculate and plastic. The price tag decided by your bursting or limping wallet.
Magnificent Christmas trees and decorations adorn hotels and major shopping centres. A selfie with one of those fantastic set-ups is a must for season - another photo that will join the thousands of images in our smart gadgets.
Yes, Christmas was also the time of albums. After the elaborate Christmas lunch, albums bulging with photos took centre stage as the Christmas anthems of Boney M and the Ugandan great, Philly Bongoley Lutaaya, boomed.
Our parents also ensured Christmas found us decked out in the choicest Sunday best downing bottles of soda with abandon. However, I cannot shake the dismay. Something is missing. There is not a Christmas tree dotted with colourful toilet paper or cotton wool like the Christmas trees of my childhood. My childish mind figured Jesus Christ as a baby needed cotton wool for his delicate skin.
We did not bother ourselves too much with the whys and wherefores of Christmas regalia and its symbolism. Now adulting has taken over. We chuckle that we who live with abundant sunshine and rain of the Equator, beautify our Christmas trees with the bearded chunky old white man in a red suit who slides down snow-covered chimneys, like a costumed intruder looking to die, leaving presents for the good children of the international community.
As a child, inundated by Hollywood’s Santa Claus, I wondered about this Claus who ‘flew’ in a sleigh drawn by reindeer. Might as well have been a sorcerer. To my great amusement, my six-year-old brings me her letter to Santa.
“Dear Santa,” she writes, “I would like a doll for Christmas this year.” I wholeheartedly wish her luck in her endeavors. This generation of immunized bazzukulu tickles me - their audacity in making their voices is a marvel. After reading her letter to Santa, I choose violence and announce. "In Uganda, we don't have Santa Claus - we have Father Christmas!”
A few Christmases back when my children were younger, I might have sold them a tall tale that Boxing Day was the day when adults boxed children because tradition demanded it.
Questioning the wisdom of tradition, they awoke to Boxing Day that year with some trepidation. Now bolder and older, with the New Year beckoning, another argument looms. These bazzukulu will question the rationale of taking down the Christmas tree and decorations. They reason, ‘If Christmas is to remind us about the birth of Christ, why should we take down the tree so quickly?” That is how the previous tree came down in April!
Their propensity for questioning the status quo, refusing to settle, invigorates and riles me simultaneously. Their questions are embers feeding my hope that this next generation of Ugandans, Africans will do greater things.
For now, we revel in the charm of the season - enjoy the company of family, friends and glorious spreads of food. January does not exist. In its temporary absence, our feel- good factor soars - even Twitter is slightly less virulent.
May the good Lord, the reason for the season, see you all safely into a thriving 2023. May our gooey lumpy politics jolt us out of our safe cynicism and exasperate us into exhausting our potential toward a Uganda that works for us all.
The writer is a tayaad muzzukulu