'Eating Christmas' and 'jumping the Year' Kenyan style

Staff and Revellers enjoy as they usher new year at Buraha Zenoni in Nakuru on December 31, 2021. [Harun Wathari, Standard]

The week between ‘Eating Christmas’ and ‘Jumping the Year’ is usually one of eating, reflection, and big dreams. Video entertainment abound, the best in 2021 involves farm children turning ignored local waste material into ‘band’ instruments to play, and enthusiastically dance to, the tune of Feliz Navidad.

There usually are three days of indulgence in ‘Eating Christmas’, looking happy and heightened commercial activities. Serious employers hold Christmas parties to appreciate workers. Some people in urban areas engage in temporary migration to ‘uchago’, meaning supposed ancestral rural homes to ‘Eat Christmas.’ All often carry Christmas ‘gifts’ in the form of big bread, sugar, unga, and assorted clothing items.

There are various modes of ‘Christmas Eating’ migration. While those having cars drive, most migrants load their personal belongings on buses and matatu and thus enable transporters to ‘eat Christmas’ by hiking fees knowing that ‘migrants’ will pay. There are three reasons for temporary migration.

First is the psychological escape from the hustles and bustles of urban areas. Second is to pay homage to parents, grandparents, and various uncles and aunts that seemed neglected for a year. Third is to rekindle childhood memories by linking and catching up with village comrades.

Those uncomfortable in their parents houses because they have not built or simply no longer fit in the childhood environment book nearby ‘hotels’ where they lose inhibitions in the name of ‘eating Christmas.’

Migrating to ‘Eat Christmas’, however, has its own hazards which give health service providers and the police and related security officers operational headaches. Health workers and the police are ordered to postpone ‘eating Christmas’ in order to cater for misfortunes arising from three likelihoods in Christmas merry making.

First exuberant drivers everywhere tend to be careless, over speed, ignore dangerous spots, miss portholes, and collide with other vehicles or end up in ditches. Second, thuggish operators seek to ‘liberate’ Christmas gifts from those who appear to have and thus cause altercations and injuries that require police and medical attention. Third, some merry makers become so rowdy that they become guests in either hospitals or police stations, or both. Accidents, thuggery, and merry making rowdiness, therefore, tend to increase and deny health and security workers opportunity to ‘Eat Christmas.’

Health and security officials also worry about ‘jumping the year’, roughly a week later. There is not as much temporary urban rural migration in the ‘jump the year’ as in ‘eating Christmas’ partly because it is immediately followed by January when those employed have to return to work and children go to school. January is the month of anguish as parents worry about finding schools, buying uniforms, and paying fees with non-existent money.

Still people find it necessary to merry make in the name of ‘jumping the year’ but the mood tends to be sombre. It is the time to leave the past year behind and feel good making resolutions and promises that will not be kept. As religious entities offer ‘jump the year’ prayers, media houses and crowd pulling organisations compete to host ‘jump the year’ bashes/jams. This being the year of election, and in the spirit of ‘jumping the year’, power seekers will try to seduce voters with promises they cannot fulfil.

Of the two celebrations, ‘Eating Christmas’ is more exciting and carefree than ‘Jumping the Year’.

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