Christmas will forever be the ultimate favorite childhood memory. It always started with the doubling of sales at Mum’s retail shop. The number of customers doubled almost overnight as travellers took trips to their villages to share Christmas with their extended families, the earliest sign that Christmas was at the door. I enjoyed the hustle and bustle of loading one customer’s shopping bag after another. It seemed to be most of a job description I could get in the shop as a young girl. The customers all seemed to have the same shopping list; sugar, rice, bread, blueband, salt, washing soap, cooking oil…these made repeat appearances in each package. Handing over their items and hearing them say ‘ merry Christmas, God bless you ‘ added to my excitement, followed by the satisfied look on Dad and Mum’s faces as they counted the huge bundles of cash after a good day’s work.
On Christmas eve, I tagged along with my older siblings as they scoured the neighbors’ fences for ‘the Christmas tree.’ We competed with other children from the neighborhood for the best tree. Finding a tall healthy one was in itself the prize. Once we had one, each family would carry theirs over their shoulders and sing carols all the way home, as loud as we could. Now that I am older I wonder why no adult ever came out to rebuke us for destroying their fences. I guess they knew all year round that they were grooming the eucalyptus for the special season.
Late into the night we clamored over decorations, each wanting their balloon to be at the top of the tree. We rolled tissue into as close to floral patterns as we could get and hang it with sequin and ‘popcorn’ across the ceiling to give some more life to the sitting room. I call it ‘popcorn’ because that’s what they looked like but they were really decorations made out of white styrofoam. To complete the look, we would hang up whatever season’s greetings cards had been given to us by relatives and friends and then turned on the Christmas lights. Yo! That picture always gave me butterflies! Then I knew Christmas had come and was not going anywhere till we had ‘eaten it’. That night we were always sure to go to bed after midnight. What made it even more perfect was waiting up with Mum as she got our favourite dishes ready. The multi-colored Christmas buffet always kicked off on the 24th and was destroyed on Christmas day amidst tonnes of laughter and chatter.
To crown the celebration, Dad always took us to the beach to watch the rocking bands of the time, the likes of Afrigo , Alouse Mabele , Shala Mwana et al. If it wasn’t the beach, then it was the theatre, where we cracked our ribs at performances by the Ebonies , akayimbira Drama Actors, Talent Ensemble or Alex Mukulu. Thereafter we’d drag our tired but extremely satisfied bodies home for the night, waking up to the silence of Boxing Day. By the way, it’s only as an adult that I discovered ‘Boxing day’ was not about the likes of Golola but a day to actually gift people. Now that I am older, Christmas is not just about the excitement of things but also the gift of Christ our Lord and Saviour. Now, even without much festivity, I have a special reason to still hold Christmas dear.