Thursday, December 17, 2015
“Only a Woman, divine, could know all that a woman could suffer.” ― Willa Cather
Christmas is so completely different here, I don’t even know how to start to explain. When we lived in Los Angeles, we thought that Christmas was a bit weird there. No seasons, no leaves falling off trees (every now and then a big palm frond would fall into our front yard, summer-like temperatures, and NO snow. Still, when you went to the malls there were carols on the loudspeakers, Christmas decorations everywhere, a Santa Claus, fake snow on the store windows, and Christmas sale signs everywhere. Still, when you went back out into the parking lot, you were back in the tropics which made the mall experience all the weirder. We decorated at home though, strung lights outside, had a decorated tree in the living room and wrapped presents piled underneath it. Here, we are in a non-gift-giving culture. There are no decorations visible in town or any of the houses. There is no Christmas music to be heard anywhere, no carolers walking from house to house, no egg nog in the stores, no special candy or cookies unless you do them yourselves. We have the picture you see to the right that was a gift from my aunt in Houston. We do have monogrammed stockings in Tanzanian fabrics that some ladies in Musoma made for us. We have a tiny artificial tree that a visitor from the States brought in her suitcase eight or nine years ago. We also have a tiny nativity scene she also brought. And while there is African art about Christ’s life, crucifixion, and resurrection—there is none depicting his birth. There is no Santa Claus and no children are expecting gifts as most are just hoping that there will be food everyday. It is true that you can’t buy a chicken around Christmas as that is a popular family Christmas meal (also means no eggs for a couple of weeks). There are church services a plenty with most having one the day before, the day of, and ecumenical services the day after. Christmas here is quiet, very religious and a time to thank God for blessings (sort of like Thanksgiving without any of that historical basis). We listen to Christmas music in the house (every time I put on my headphones at my computer, I have ten hours or more to play). We don’t get presents from family as a rule, though sometimes we do get some that arrive in January or February. Neither do we give each other gifts as we pool our money to buy pairs of breeding goats for new widows with small children. We do watch “Polar Express,” “It’s a Wonderful Life,” and some version of Dicken’s “Christmas Carol.” We manage to find some small things to put in the stockings, but Christmas morning is nothing like it was for so many years when we lived in America. There is no waiting for Grandma to get her camera ready, or to allow the kids to run in and see what’s under the tree. No empty plate of cookies or an empty glass of milk. You’d think we’d be depressed and unhappy, but nothing could be further from the truth. We do miss Christmas Eve services, but we can usually find a Midnight Mass on the television. What does happen is that we find our hearts strangely warmed that a baby born in a barn over 2,000 years ago came for the sole purpose of saving us and bringing us peace. We are grateful, touched, and marvel at Mary, knowing what she would have to undergo. I offer here a video that we watch often as it reminds us of why we are here and what we are to be doing. May it touch you, as it touches us.