We’re in the second Christmas under a global pandemic. Once more, Christmas celebrations are subject to a different reality from what was in 2019 and before. However, Kenyan families are not about to let the joy and optimism that radiates at this time of the year slip away.
“People want to go back to living, they want to learn how to continue living with Covid-19,” says Dr Eric M Kioko, an anthropologist, Kenyatta University.
“2020 was hard for many because Covid broke down relations. Social ties are strengthened by physical contact. The rule of the thumb is when you go, you always come back.”
For many Kenyans, especially those who live far from their families, this chance only comes once a year.
“People are excited about meeting their friends and families back home. To erase those ideals would be detrimental to society as we know it,” says Dr Kioko.
The city belongs to no one, he says, therefore people treasure the continued connection between urban and rural.
“I haven’t been able to go home since February last year, right before the lockdown. Christmas was sombre last year and I chose not to travel as I was confused about the pandemic, lockdowns and all the rules. I was so scared by the possibility of exposing my parents to the virus and what that would mean for folks their age,” says Arthur Olang’, a 30-year-old accountant based in Nairobi.
“This time round I am upbeat for Christmas. I now understand how to prevent the spread of Covid-19. I got my jab and I’m ready to travel for our family’s annual get-together.”
With proper adherence to Covid-19 prevention protocols, Olang believes his family will have a blast this year, with little to worry about.
“Every Christmas my extended family gets together for our end-of-year celebrations. We all put on our aprons and tie our lesos and become backyard chefs. We slaughter a goat, grill, boil and stew its meat. It’s a treasured and cherished tradition that began with my late grandfather, and lives on through us. We took a hiatus in 2020 because of the pandemic but nothing will stop us now. With everyone fully vaccinated this year we will be back at it this weekend. I can’t wait!” Says Jasslyn Muthoni, a communications executive with a telecommunications company.
For others, Covid has left scars that demand stringent strategies henceforth.
“Although we always had big family Christmas celebrations, when my father passed on late last year due to Covid-19, my mother longed for something quieter this year, surrounded only by her kids and grandkid,” says Rita Kiarie, a city based lawyer.
“To minimise the risk of infecting our aging mother, my five siblings and I planned to quarantine for one week prior to Christmas, then travel home together. With vaccination and frequent hand washing, we will enjoy Christmas again. We will not invite any extended family, or friends this time around.”
“If they should host get-together parties, people will benefit from keeping their circle small this Christmas,” says Susan Mghoi, a caterer and event organiser.
“Place chairs apart, place hand washing stations and hand sanitisers in every corner of the home, keep windows open, and if possible host your get-togethers outdoors.”