Since in the early 80s, the 25th of December has been a great day. It was Nweli day, my tribal pronunciation to mean Noel -- another name for Christmas.
We actually didn’t care much to know what Christmas meant, but what we knew, is that it's just a great day (sikukuu). So we prepared our cerebrations, not caring about our ethnic groups. Here Christians and non-Christians joined their efforts for the celebrations. It took some years for the citizens of my village to realize that this day was meant for followers of Christianity only!
We just thought that it’sa day of cerebration for eachand everyone, since we had obtained our local name, Nweli day, or the big day (sikukuu).
I eventually began to doubt this day which people started to prepare themselves for, for a whole year, from Jan
uary up to December. Preparations started among different socio-economic groups. Members of the groups did anything they could to raise as much cash as possible so that, at the end of the year they could execute a cow or goat, or smack a pig.
Men always collected money for as much local brew as possible. What gave me a hard time was the great preparations for just a single day of a year. We youngsters always met with injuries by working as much as possible for the day. Even when the day finally arrived, we still had to face blue collar jobs for the family.
Youngsters had to wake up very early in the morning to milk the cows. Then our mothers had to prepare a hot tea for our-soon-to-wake-up fathers. Cooking of food started early in the morning. Meat had to be prepared as early as possible. Christians had to go to church where all prayers and worship had to be short, since people wanted to hurry for the beautiful meal being prepared at home. We could invite any guest, but don’t let any madman cross nearby your house especially during lunch time! He/she might be stoned to death or have all the abuses of this world thrown at them.
It was the only day when youngsters could wear a necktie, no matter what shirt was covering your body. Remember we used to buy big clothes so that we could grow up with them. Sometimes your big brother decided to give you some of his shirts and shoes for Christmas Day! Obviously they are too big for you. Imagine a boy who can dress in a small size shirt, being awarded an extra large size! Oops!
Don’t remind me about shoes. During Christmas day, our beloved ones living abroad used to send us some pair of shoes no matter what size fits you. It was like a comedy show as we walked to church. Everybody had a new walking style. Some would limp; some would walk as if they were preventing their shoes from leaving their legs. Some of us wore sandals for the first time. If you looked at someone who was pretending to be happy, you couldn’t fail to realize that there was something which was not okay (shoes are too thin for his legs).
As young boys, we did anything to prove our superiority in order to attract girls. I remember one Christmas day when I with my three other friends, happened to have a few coins. We bought one bottle of soda, we carried the bottle through all the houses that had girls of our age while holding it, one after another. In fact it added our names into the number of the village’s superstars since not many young people knew the taste of the soda.
At around 5pm, we started drinking that soda, one at a time. Our teeth were strong enough to open the bottle, so no opening machine was needed. Each could take one swallow and hand the bottle to his neighbour. We did do this repeatedly especially when we saw girls passing in front of us. We ended up fighting, since the bottle seemed to dry before thirst ended. The last person to take a swallow was always blamed for having abig mouth -- otherwise the soda couldn’t finish so easily. History was made -- that these guys drank soda during Christmas Day!
Don’t ask about our fathers and brothers! These were now in the local bar, taking the local brew. They always shouted since everybody knew that only a few of them could manage to stand on their own feet! Our moms and sisters stayed at home cleaning dishes. People passing by congratulated you for seeing such a great day. Our fathers remained in bars until the next day -- remember that drink didn't allow them to walk on their own feet.
The next day was referred to as a second Christmas day, many villagers were injured as a result of figthts here and there. Above all, many of us ended up with stomach aches since we used to over-eat on Christmas Day and some could ate raw meats and foods.
During lunch time, there was a problem. Our eating place had no chairs, and we had to sit down on glasses with neckties and with our oversized new clothes. At the end of the day, we washed our clothes and shoes, ready for for the next great day! Everybody had to put on new clothes even if it’s a jacket in sunshine, coat or shoes, no matter if its over size or undersize, what matters, is it's new!
A great day ended with many misunderstandings which had to be solved by village elders. Nowadays things are different, knowledge has spread and therefore Christmas Day is cerebrated only by Christians.
Do people still drink like crazy? I don’t know, but something good is that, when it comes to celebrations, especially when you don’t know what and why are you celebrating, things prove great, well and good.by Kamala Lutatinisibwa