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For years, I have been observing my kids during the weeks leading to Christmas and noticed certain similarities with the same period of the year when I was a kid decades ago. Anticipation for presents, anticipation for quality family time, anticipation for “fun.” “Fun,” of course, meant totally different things.
Like I said in another blog post, I grew up in a small town in Uganda. Christmas was a very happy occasion. Families got together. Gifts were exchanged—of course not electronic gadgets or gift cards. Christmas was generally similar to the Christmas in my novel The son of Kasaka. But that’s a fictional story.
In the weeks leading to Christmas, my sisters and I had a pig bank—an empty tin of body jelly. Whenever each one of us received money (usually coins), he/she would drop it in the pig bank. The money was meant to be spent (all of it!) on Christmas Day.
How did I get money? My mother owned a bar. I would hang around (discreetly, of course, she didn’t want me there) in the evenings and the patrons, in a festive mood, would often give me a coin or two, even three. Yeah, they were generous those days. Those patrons. Into the pig bank the coins went!
On Christmas Day, after a humongous lunch, (yeah, we fed ourselves into food comas!) we would wear our clothes (usually new) and set off on a tour of the town for an afternoon and evening of fun.
Our idea of fun was a walk around the small town, buying snacks and meeting with friends in the neighborhood. We would buy and consume all sorts of snacks—kabalagala (hey, do some work too. Google it), samosas, candy, even soda. It was on Christmas Day that each one of us got a whole bottle of soda for themselves! Can you imagine that? A whole bottle of soda all for one kid?
Don’t laugh! Pop, I mean soda, was not as abundant as it is now, even in that small, now big, town.
I don’t know how a tummy could digest all that food in a single day.
And then, it was nightfall! Oh no! Around eight o’clock in the evening, we had to walk back home. The adults would still be up drinking and having fun. As for us kids, the fun was over. We had to undress and wear our “everyday clothes.” It was all over. Life abruptly returned to normal. A depressing normal. Back to routine, back to reality. Depressing night, Christmas night.