When Christmas Was A Big Deal #HomeIsWhereTheHeartIs

Our family when I was a kid. With one of my grandmothers. See the similar dresses my sister and I are wearing

When I was a child, we looked forward to the Christmas holiday because it was a big occasion. Christmas was the time when we would get new clothes that would be our Sunday best for the next year, so it was exciting to go and get measured for a new dress. Since we were 2 girls we would each get a dress in the same material but that had a slight difference so that our dresses were not identical. For my brother, we would have to buy new clothes because my mother did not go with that idea of making those kitenge things for a boy. Sometimes we would go to a shop because it was easier than back and forth to the tailors who were overwhelmed. That would also be the time when we would get a new pair of shoes that were not school shoes. In those days there were no mitumbas, so everything you would buy was from either the shops like Deacons or you would get something tailored.

Our family when I was a kid. With one of my grandmothers. See the similar dresses my sister and I are wearing


We loved Christmas because that was one of the only times we would get to eat delicacies like mbuzi choma, and drink sodas which were not an everyday thing like now. We would go to my grandmother’s house early in the morning. They lived not too far away from us in a farm on the outskirts of Nairobi. My father and brother would join my uncles and male cousins and they would slaughter a goat, skin it and divide the meat. Some was for roasting, some was for the stew, some like some of the matumbo would be made into mutura (some would have blood and some wouldn’t). Even though my grandmother had an electric cooker with oven she also had a fireplace to cook on outside like the ones you would see in a typical gishagi home. The men would roast most of the meat over the fire and also boil some in some of those huge sufurias before roasting it.

As women we would cook the rest of the food. One of my favourite things to do was cook mukimo with my grandmother – my cucu’s mukimo was the best. We used to make two types, one for njahi with bananas (sweet mukimo) and one with peas. We would spend time cooking chapos which we didn’t eat that often because flour was expensive, rice, stew, some chicken, and veggies. My mother would have made a cake the day before for eating with tea.

In the afternoon we would sit down to eat. My father would sit at a table in the middle of family members and cut meat to be shared by the family. We would take the meat around and enjoy each other’s company as we laughed and had a great time together. Afterwards we would get sodas to drink. We would shake the sodas and make sure that when they were opened we would spray each other with part of the soda before drinking the rest of the soda. Later we would have tea and cake and just celebrate the good times together, singing some Christmas carols. Before leaving my grandfather would read the bible, then my grandparents would pray for us and give us their blessings. We had a great time and I never thought things would change. But there have been some difficult Christmases.

With our grandparents

When I was 10 my father died in a tragic accident. That year was a fog of pain and heartbreak. The first Christmas 8 months later was hard, I have to say. I was daddy’s girl and I used to follow him around. It was hard to celebrate when my dad wasn’t present. He wasn’t around to drive us there, give me my favourite pieces of meat when he was roasting the meat, and he wasn’t there to cut the meat. Eventually the pain wasn’t so much but I realized that holidays can be the hardest things when your loved one has died.

In 2003 I wasn’t home for Christmas. I was living in the UK and I was freezing cold because it was winter. I missed home so much, and the things that make home home. The family, the bonding, the food and the weather too. I missed everything that makes home including hearing people talking in mother tongue and Kiswahili. I called home and talked to my family but it wasn’t the same. I had an English Christmas with the family I was staying with and we had a great time (I lived in a small town called Mansfield, in Nottingham). I realized how important family was and how much it means to spend the holidays with the people you love, and who love you, and share so many memories with you.

2005/2006 Christmases were also Christmases to remember. In 2005 my beloved cucu (grandmother) was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer. She was really sick in the later part of the year and she spent a lot of time in hospital. To be honest we didn’t think she would make it to Christmas. She did and we were so grateful for that. It was a special Christmas of thanksgiving and one I will never forget. Unfortunately she died in 2006 in June and it was heartbreaking. She was my second mother and I was devastated.

That year my sister had a baby named Sean in July. We said that God took one of our family treasures away but gave us another to love. That Christmas was bitter-sweet. It was hard going to my grandparents place and not having my cucu there to say “karifu karifu” as she used to do when she would welcome us to the house. But we also had a little baby to look after, and he was a handful as he had just started to crawl around.

My nephew Sean with my sister

Christmas is a special time and a great time to bond with your family, create new memories and just remember the good times. Christmas is not about the decorations, it is a celebration of life and family, a chance to spend time with the people who truly love you, people who have seen you grow up, they know some of your secrets, your failings and weaknesses, they also know your strengths, passions and dreams. This video home is where the heart is made so much sense to me, because home is where the people you love are, it might not be in the traditional place where you usually meet, but as long as you are with people you love you are set. But even if you are far away from home in distance, home is never far away, you take your memories with you, and they keep home alive for you.

This year Safaricom wants to make your Christmas special. This whole week they have been doing different things around the country. They have visited old people’s homes and children’s homes, they have held medical camps; they have paid bus fares and they have given away chicken, data, and credit. And it isn’t over yet. Safaricom has a few surprises up their sleeves, so check out the hashtags #SafaricomXmas and #HomeIsWhereTheHeartIs to get some goodies. I have been giving out credit and you still have a chance to win some. Tell me about that one Christmas when you couldn’t make it home for Christmas. How did you feel? How did you make it feel more like Christmas? Did you call home? Did you make sure you had some mbuzi? Did you spend time looking at your family pictures? Tell me and you can win Ksh 2000 in credit from Safaricom Limited. Click on this link to give me your answers. Tomorrow watch out for some great giveaways from Safaricom. Remember the hashtags are #SafaricomXmas and #HomeIsWhereTheHeartIs.

Happy holidays from us at Potentash.com. Hope you have a great holiday and you have fun, lots to eat, and you create some great new memories. Remember to be kind to others during this festive season and tell the people you love that you appreciate them, remember that time is not guaranteed to us, and you never know where you might be tomorrow. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

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Potentash Founder. A creative writer and editor at Potentash. Passionate about telling African stories. Find me at [email protected]