Sun is shining, palm trees are swaying, a 30 degree breeze blows from the Indian Ocean. And tomorrow is Christmas Eve. How did that happen?!
Christmas took me completely by surprise this year. When I was young I sometimes started preparing presents already in October and had them wrapped weeks before the E-day. Now it only hit me it’s actually Christmas soon when the street stand next to my morning coffee place played a whole album of Boney M Christmas songs loudly and clearly yesterday morning. I mean there have been signs in the air already for a few weeks, informing me it’s that time of the year – some shops and restaurants have decorated their windows with very kitsch Christmas accessories, bongo flava from the dala dala radio has slowly turned into Christmas carols, and the many men walking between cars during rush hour selling everything from coffee cups and aprons to rat poison and huge inflatable rubber ducks have distinctly changed the commerce to plastic Christmas trees – but it’s the heat that gets me. It’s my first time outside Finland for this festive season, and it really makes a difference to your daily/weekly/monthly/yearly rhythm when everyday is as hot or hotter than the previous one. Half of Europe has been covered in heavy snow and chaos lately, but it really is something special to have summer turn in to falling leaves in autumn to snow covered lands in winter. “I’m dreaming of a white Christmas”, sang by Bing Crosby, has never sounded as relevant for me and at the same time so far removed from the whole context I’m in now.
Apart from the few hints of carols and plastic trees, the street scene in Dar in December is the same as it was in September, give or take a few degrees and rain drops. Life goes on normally and most Tanzanians I know don’t have anything special planned for Christmas, some resting, spending time with friends and possibly family, perhaps going to the church, a bit like any other weekend. Family ties seem to be close and common dinners frequent throughout the year, so there’s no need to put special emphasis on Christmas. Here, I can’t help but to think of Band Aid’s 1980s question about Africa: “Do they know it’s Christmas time at all?” My question is, do they need to know, if by Christmas we mean the type found in the West, the type dominated by stress of buying Christmas presents, the stress of hosting the extended family this one time of the year, the stress of cooking that one ham in the oven so it’s perfect, not raw and not too dry. Don’t get me wrong though, it’s a nice song to get me in the Christmas mood, but being here in Tanzania during this time has really made me think of the importance and emphasis we place on these few days of the year.
Having said all this, Christmas has always felt special to me and I doubt this will change in an instant, so anyone who wants to send me some snow by Santa Express are welcome to do so = )
Kuwa na krismasi njema!