What is Christmas to You?
Ugandans and their varying understanding of Christmas.
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First published: December 25, 2005
Chances are high that when you open your email box or check in you post office box, you will get a Christmas message or card. In the buses and taxis heading to any part of the country, it would be unusual not to hear the word Christmas in people’s conversations. It is Christmas everywhere.
Any phone call from a friend or relative especially from upcountry will most likely be about Christmas. Many people understand Christmas as the birth of Jesus Christ. But you will hear questions like “When are you coming for Christmas?”; “When are you giving me my Christmas?” or even “How are you going to ‘eat’ your Christmas?”
So what is Christmas to you? We asked a number of Ugandans.
Benon Mugisha, a resident of Mutundwe, Kampala says that there is nothing religious about Christmas. He says that Christmas is the day started by some people to make more money to start a new year.
“You see at the end of the year, some people in Europe would be frustrated after failing to make enough profits in a particular year. So what do they do? They just decided to have the end of year as a season to make profits and start a new year well,” he explains.
But is this the case for most people? Ssezi Kalyoowa, a trader in St. Balikudembe market says that Christmas is the day for everybody to celebrate to the maximum. He says that that is why some people reserve enough money for the Christmas festivities.
Another businessman, Jonathan Lule says that Christmas is the time to make extra money. “Christmas is all about making money. It is a very important season for many business people,” he says.
Like Lule, Henry Musoke of Pilut Beauty Tips Saloon near the Old Taxi Park says Christmas is about boosting sales. “It is on Christmas that I expect much in sales. In case the profits are too much, there I understand the value of Christmas and that is when I cerebrate it,” he says. “That is why I may decide to work on Christmas.”
Linda Agaba, a 28- year old manager at Kwiksave Supermarket in Seeta however says that to her Christmas is losing meaning. “My birthday is far better than Christmas. People these days are not in a Christmas mood because Christmas means having money to spend yet poverty is increasing among Ugandans,” she says.
Eddie Mutesa, a teacher at old Kampala Primary School says that Christmas is all about looking different. “It is the time to dress well, eat a better meal and a time to adventure. It can also be time to rest from work and have a special refreshment,” he says.
James Mbabazi, an urban planner in Kampala agrees. “Christmas is Kurisa amaani (a Rukiga phrase for eating till you drop). It is the time to eat the best food in bigger quantities,” he says. Mbabazi says that it is Christmas that brings family members together. He however says he is not sure whether Christmas is the day Jesus was born or not.
“I am not sure whether it is the day Jesus was born. I don’t think it is specifically on December 25 when Jesus was born. But since this is the time for family members to be together, eating lots of food and sometimes go to happening places and meeting friends, it is enough for you to cerebrate,” he says.
According to Robert Kintu, a resident of Jinja whom this writer met in the Old Taxi park, Christmas is the time to be with parents especially when you have been away in the city. “Christmas is all about checking on the parents after spending the whole year without seeing them. It give you enough time to discuss family issues,” he says.
To Lyness Musoke, a thirty-three year-old employee of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Christmas means entertaining one’s children and people invited at home. “I usually entertain my young kids by buying for them gifts that match with the day. I also teach them about Jesus although they tend to forget what I teach them,” she says.
Dick Kisiita, 22 from Ntinda View Secondary School in Kampala says that Christmas is about changing in one’s physical appearance and the way you spend you day.
“On Christmas, that is when you need to change your dress code and attend church service or go for entertainments to ensure that there is change in your mood,” he says.
Frank Kiggundu, a Police Constable in Kampala says that because other people are cerebrating Christmas, he cannot cerebrate because he has to ensure that there is law and order.
“So, to me Christmas has no meaning although people want to cerebrate it as if it is a must to cerebrate,” he says.
And what do the kids think?
“Christmas is a day when Jesus was born and a day when Mum or Dad buys us new clothes, give us a special dishes and take us to good places for touring,” says Brenda, a 5 year-old pupil of Aga Khan primary School in Kampala.
So, tell us… What is Christmas to you?
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First published: December 25, 2005
Gideon Munaabi is a journalist and public relations practitioner with Ultimate Media Consult (U) Ltd. He has been and continues writing widely for different publication locally and internationally. He is a founding member of Ultimate Media Consult (U) Ltd and is currently the chairman of the organisation.
Kisembo Fredrick is a trainee reporter at Ultimate Media Consult (U) Ltd. He is a student of Journalism at United Media Consultants and Trainers (UMCAT).