By: Sister Agnes Bwalya
Christmas is celebrated with a lot of symbols and its celebration starts with a lot of preparations. In the village and at every home, parents start by preparing what to eat and what their children will wear. The children think of what they will receive from their parents and what they will give to others. Village chickens, goats, cows, dried fish, local beer, and local drinks are set aside just for Christmas.
Christmas is a season that everyone waits for and is a time when we see the hidden joy of Christmas that we long for!
Everyone thinks of what will be shared with others.
The asking of a gift is done in a symbolic way, very early in the morning, when people move with branches and visit a home, knock and shout “Christmas” and leave a branch at the door. The owner of the house comes out, gives the one who brought the branch anything she/he has. If one doesn’t have any food to give, he/she will come out with a cup of water, the other person receives it and drinks, and the games continue.
On the very day of Christmas, families and friends will visit and eat together during the family meal. It is the responsibility of an elderly person to explain to others about the importance of sharing. Food is served and the visiting of grandparents is commonly done. The old grandparent will prepare something for whoever visits them, if they do not have anything to give at the end of their visit, they will bless their children by touching their forehead and saying, “Be disciplined and grow old as I am.” It is now that grand children get wrappers and bracelets from their grandmothers. Grandparents feel happy after the visits from young ones. During the visit what is avoided is to recall any conflict that occurred before, to individuals or among family members. Each one makes sure that the joy of Christmas is maintained.
It is very common that a dress, shirt, wrapper, shoes, are kept in a suitcase for so many months, just waiting to be put on at Christmas. It is a long preparation which calls for patience as well.
In some areas like Kawambwa and in other parts of Zambia, there is a flower which is named ‘Christmas flower’ because it grows and blossoms during the early rains. This is a precious flower that young adults look for and give to their loved ones as an engagement for marriage. It is commonly done in our village during Christmas and New Year time. When a young girl is given a Christmas flower by a young boy, the girl takes it to her grandparents or aunties. It is self-explanatory that the boy wants to marry their daughter.
The celebration of the New Year starts at Christmas, when parents bless their children by word of mouth and by exchange of gifts. The size of the gift does not matter, what matters is the exchange and the eating of food together.
At our two schools, the traditional way of celebrating Christmas and New Year is practiced, and it is a long preparation for everyone. On the last day of the term, each child has to look for something good to do to the other child, or to a friend. Exchanging of branches is done (it must be a branch from a tree that gives us food; such as from a mango tree or a guava tree).
It is a sign of taking care of my friend, giving him/her fruit that can sustain one’s life. Each person finds time to help a friend in some way by washing clothes, sweeping, helping with lessons, but without someone asking for help.
Members of the staff teach students the importance of sharing. Sometimes older children, on behalf of small children, go out to help old parents in the nearby village, visiting the hospital and other charitable works. In the evening they come together for social recreation, sharing of water is commonly done and everyone longs for this time. Small actions are performed to one another silently the main aim of doing these actions is to tell another person they can help.
At church, the traditional way of making a kraal (a traditional African village of huts, typically enclosed by a fence) is done as we do at home. Banana leaves and plants surround the kraal and model of Jesus, Joseph and Mary, then the stars are inserted. It is a sacred and holy place for us, because it reminds us of the place where Jesus was born. During Mass a basket of assorted fruits and seeds covered by branches is offered. It is a good sign of sharing the togetherness and oneness as we worship, Emmanual meaning God is with us and among us full of life.
The hidden and unique joy of Christmas and New Year is what I long for, I’m part of this hidden joy. Let us all be part of this hidden joy by sharing what we have.
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