25-12-2020 by Freddie del Curatolo
Christmas is a ritual, a habit, for many a simple convention.
Even if many have forgotten its original meaning, it is a pleasure and a convenience to be there because it is combined with the holidays, with not feeling guilty about spending a little money, with increasing our waistline with food, confectionery and ethylic gratifications and with meeting up with relatives, even the snake-like ones who meet up just for the holidays or at the notary when there is an inheritance to be shared out.
Christmas is a habit, and this year we have to celebrate it after months in which our usual habits have changed profoundly.
We no longer hug each other except in close family circles, we hardly ever see each other anymore and never in a normal way. We have lost all naturalness and we are also losing face (in the sense of mimicry, in the other sense we are beyond that now...).
The Western Christmas, cold outside and cold of feelings to be able to externalize, must be very hard for those who are used to make it a moment of joy.
Christmas in Kenya, instead, has always been "abnormal" in itself.
First of all, it's so hot, because it's the middle of summer (and you're dressed as Father Christmas, with Tsavo antelopes instead of reindeer).
People are almost forced to stay out of their houses, which are mostly huts. They often return from the cities to their home villages, where they are less controlled and can enjoy the festivities in blissful peace.
Secondly, 4 Kenyans out of 5 do not have a damn thing to spend, but somehow manage to spend it anyway to eat something special, offer two sweets to the children or drink an extra beer. Every year the poorer they get, the richer the few get. They are used to this too, and Covid-19 will not change that. And in their history they have never even had a whiff of a "spring" of social equality.
Thirdly, they pray and sing hymns to the Lord together, something that in Italy is done by a few elderly people or small groups of pure souls that almost everyone considers a bit crazy or incurable bigots. Here, on the other hand, it is one of those habits that sticks, brings people together and brings hope in the form of sharing.
Once again this year the three main assumptions in Kenya will remain, with the usual heat, a slightly more serious poverty (but it is said every year) and the only difference that the aggregations could not (African conditional obligatory, because it sends the police of a town that has a maximum of three vehicles to simultaneously check 210 churches in its district...) take place with more than 100 people in the same place.
All this makes us think that Christmas will still be celebrated more here than in Italy, for example. That no gifts will be exchanged, but smiles, that the decorations on the trees will be sweet mangoes to eat, and that in order to escape contagion, people will not shut themselves up within four walls, but will all dive into the ocean, splashing and raising seawater that does not allow the transmission of the virus and other diseases. And then you have to explain what disease exactly, because it is not as if at Christmas we stop dying of malnutrition, malaria, infections from water and animals and so on.
But that those who have always believed that Christmas is something else, that it should not remind us of solidarity, patience with our neighbours who are different from us, the ability to give happiness before thinking of receiving it, now get it into their heads that when things change for the worse, Africa will always be better prepared than others.
(Image: Stacy Barbour)
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