Merry Christmas fellow taxpayers

With the Christmas around the corner, a carnival mood has engulfed my part of the county. It is the season for merry-making and unbridled spending.

Everyone has suddenly taken to playing carols, and homes have been prettified with all manner of ritzy garlands, imitation reindeer, snowmen, elves, plastic trees, ornaments and shiny star-like things.

As usual, there has been an outbreak of marketers, vendors and advertisers soft-soaping everyone into buying Christmas fare, with the poor masses eagerly devolving their hard-earned cash at every whim.

With some neighborhood pubs operating round the clock, youths are getting hammered into the dead of night. Several neighbours have joined the annual upcountry exodus, at a time when buses charge fares that would rival the GDP of an average third world country.

“Christmas has become a time to pamper oneself and buy this year’s gifts using next year’s money,” my friend Odhiambo says. January is a sad story waiting to happen.

Indeed, today’s overly-commercialised version of Christmas is poles apart from the simple, unadulterated festivities of our childhood. Few of us knew of Santa Claus, and money was not part of the equation. On a typical Christmas, we would rise up at the crack of dawn and make preparations for the day — which included booking a cooking pan in advance.

Remember, those were the days when a single household owned the only chapati-making skillet in the village.

There were no salons in those days, so ladies would poke little holes at the bottom of metallic utensils, fill them with hot charcoal, run them over their hair and presto!

They would then prance about the village while making big shows of their new hairdos, clothes and shoes. In the evening, we would assemble around fireplaces to guard our mothers as they prepared chapati.

No children would dare step out of the compound during such critical moments.

Given the rarity of chapo then, you would munch your piece as slowly as possible.

The more imaginative children would even chew their chapo into the shape of an animal, house, bicycle or a car.

Leftover chapo would be tucked in the cupboard or beneath the pillow, away from the long arms of your siblings and other predators. In fact, some children were even known to go to sleep while tightly clutching at their pieces!

Not surprisingly, the chapo was the holy grail of Christmas festivities, and even was a part of the sweet nothings that featured in love letters back then.

For the macho types, wassailing supplied memorable thrills in village Christmas festivities. On Christmas Eve, boys would gang up and march across the village, singing carols from door to door while beating tins and other percussion.

Amused villagers would reward them with money or snacks, while the mean ones would merely invoke blessings and send us off.

Occasionally, wassailing gangs would rake in substantial returns and spend it on important items, such as mandazi and sodas.

It was common for big boys and self-appointed “treasurers” swindling the minions in the group, spawning long-lasting feuds and even fights.

Also, Christmas marked the peak of circumcision season. After several weeks of hibernation, the initiates would crawl out of their tiny huts on Christmas morning, while exuding their newly-acquired airs of adulthood, their puffy cheeks suggesting a period of unmitigated engorgement.

In the spirit of fiscal prudence, I have vowed to celebrate a low-key, shoe-string budget Christmas this year.

I will attend mass at the local chapel, watch Sunday school children replaying the Nativity and go back home for a sumptuous meal.

There, I will compose a sweet seasons greeting, forward it to all the contacts in my phonebook, and then call it a holiday.

Merry Christmas, fellow taxpayers.

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