The Christmas season takes on new meaning in Malawi, Africa. There are “extra” holidays as there are celebrations for Eid (Muslim holiday), Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, Boxing Day (day after Christmas), New Year’s Eve, and New Year’s Day. However, no one in this part of Africa has ever heard of Kwanzaa. Instead of dreaming of a white Christmas, we dream of a dry Christmas as this is rainy season in the southern cone of Africa. This means it is lush, tropical, green, hot and muggy. On several occasions, Christmas Day has been our hottest day of the year — with no air conditioning.
Instead of Santa Claus, Christmas trees, and homes lit up with lights, Christmas is celebrated by going to a place of worship. Children may do a short drama about the biblical Christmas story, but often one does not hear one Christmas carol or a Christmas themed message. After the service, friends and family gather together for a special meal of chicken and rice. Chicken is a treat as most Malawians eat primarily vegetables and nsima as they cannot afford to eat meat on a weekly basis. The “piece de resistance” is the back which is the most honorific part of the chicken. Hopefully, there is electricity to cook this meal as that tends to be in short supply during the holidays. Otherwise, the meal is cooked over an open fire. Speaking from experience, this does not work too well for turkey.
Boxing Day, a traditional British holiday, is often celebrated in Malawi by going to the lake to go swimming or visiting other friends and relatives. While not official holidays, the whole week between Christmas and New Years often means that all the stores are closed for the employees’ annual vacation. Therefore, one must plan ahead for about two weeks worth of groceries. For the ex-patriot (primarily American or Canadian) who may want a turkey, that also has to be purchased by mid-November as they are only imported once a year, and their cost can be exhorbitant.
Christmas in Africa is not about the hustle and bustle, and it is not about giving and receiving gifts. It is about spending time with friends, family, and going to church.
TAGS: Christmas in Africa, food, rainy season, traditions CATEGORIES: Rhonda