In a country like Kenya, this is the time for church, parties, and food. Yet one thing stands awkwardly disturbing – the Christmas tree. During Christmas time, the Christmas tree and its accompanying decorations make a booming business.
As a child with little self-awareness and consciousness about my identity and culture, it was blissful, beautiful and pleasant to see my parents come home with a Christmas tree.
I was overwhelmingly happy to help them decorate the tree with lights and star baubles. The feeling Christmas brings is nostalgic and a walk down the memory lane.
Fast forward to my adult self and the thing I cherished so much as a child has become an ideological conflict within me.
I no longer find reason in having Christmas trees, in no form other than artificial pines and spruces, become the symbol of Christmas in my Kenyan society.
If it is a symbol at all, then it is rather a symbol of a dying culture and identity. Need I remind myself that before Christmas trees and its associated western accompaniments started becoming popular in Kenya, young people in the 1980s, 90s and early 00s cut palm branches and weave them to create tents where they spent time with their friends sharing food and drinks their parents gave them.
This was one element of the Christmas celebrations that was original and that deepened our sense of community.
We attended our cultural festivals and sports events that promoted our identity. I have personally observed with utmost disbelief, shock, and anger that reindeer and polar bear toys, and cotton representing snow has crept ever so quickly into the Christmas tree setup in Kenya.
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I find this mostly in the burgeoning western standard pubs, high-end eateries, and shopping malls across the capital, Nairobi and other major towns like Mombasa and Kisumu. This phenomenon is fast creeping into Kenyan homes.
What’s the purpose behind displaying elements that are not indigenous to Kenya during Christmas? Who is promoting this as a standard Christmas setup? Who benefits ultimately from the business of westernized Christmas in Kenya?
Why should we have a fake feeling exemplified by artificial trees? We have “paganized” our own culture and identity and have unwittingly embraced western celebrations that only advances western identity and kills the very soul of African existence and its relevance to global culture. I love Europe and I love the numerous countries I have visited over there.
The evergreen fir tree has traditionally been used to celebrate winter festivals. But these trees were hardly grown in Africa and that is why we have the fake artificial ones in an attempt to emulate the West.
Christmas trees in ancient Europe were put up during winter as a sign of hope and anticipation of Spring time. I have had the fairy tales of Santa Claus in Europe and how each country dearly holds onto its unique Christmas.
But I hate to see the idea of Santa Claus take over Christmas celebrations in Kenya. I love and promote the idea of multiculturalism and cross-cultural interaction that leaves all the cultures preserved and respected by all.
The beauty of our world lies in the diversity of a common humanity. Kenyans need to realize that Christmas does not sit on snow and Christmas trees in Africa and the earlier we wake up from this illusion, the better and the more time we have to save that which is us – our identity and culture.