The nineties were unforgettable. Uganda had just come out of a turbulent past and now, for the first time, a good number could afford to have the perfect celebration. Today, it’s worth travelling to the ancient days and reminiscing about Christmas.
1. The Christmas Tree
Christmas always started with the hunt for the Christmas tree. If you had no Christmas tree, it did not count as Christmas in your house. You had to hunt for the best branch of the cypress tree. The idea was that this same tree would serve as the fuel when New Years Day came around. Why? Because it would now be dry.
With a Christmas tree sorted, it was time to give it the best of decorations. All the Christmas cards had to be hung here, the more, the merrier. If you did not belong to the broke people association, you would then go for the decoration lights. All you had to do was look out for Rema’s dress, take off some lights and have a full blast. Finally, it would be the sweets, and the balloons.
2. Balloon Raffle
Balloons defined a celebration in the nineties. A party without balloons didn’t count. Those days in the nineties, you bought balloons in a game style. You would pay, and then pick a number. It was micro-betting. For the unlucky ones, you would always end up with the tiniest of balloons. The luckier you got, the bigger the balloon. Shops kept having kids stream in and out, taking chances at the balloon raffle. For some reason, it was impossible to win the big balloon. It took a special kind of luck. That’s when many of us realized that the game of life was rigged. No matter how many times you played, you would never find the number to the big balloon.
3. Food, Food, Food
If your family didn’t start preparing for Christmas the night before, then you would get worried. You could feel the excitement in the air as Philly Lutaaya owned the musical space. Back in the nineties, it was easy to slay. There were not many gated houses. You could tell what was going on in the neighbours’ space.
Not to be embarrassed, Christmas was when every family went into a saucepan contest. You had to lineup your biggest saucepans. You had to cook everything possible. Forget these days where people pay for hotel buffets. In the nineties, you would freeze and completely fail to make a choice. There was chicken of all types, from the Luwombo to the grilled. Name it all.
In fact, food was supposed to be served at around 3pm. You had to eat till you could comfortably compete with Full Figure. You ate till you could not move a leg and simply remained transfixed in that position. Those were also the days when rice and soda were a luxury. That’s why the famous game always had the lines; ‘omuceere n’enyama olyawo kki?’ It was considered such a paradox to choose between rice and meat.
4. The Christmas Clothing
Women would divorce their husbands for failing to buy them a Christmas gomesi. It’s on this big day that you get to reveal your newest attire. It’s when you showed off with a new haircut, a new pair of shoes, it was a rebirth everywhere. The competition started from the Church mass or service. You all woke up early and tried to find the best location in Church. The offertory and Eucharist sessions were the actual runway. You strolled to the front making sure that every new item is noticed. The problem with this fashion show is that everyone was busy at the same game. At the end of the service, there was an extra 30 minutes of greetings. It’s here that you would take keen interest in what everyone else wore to Church and thereafter give a fashion critique.
5. The Countryside Christmas
Although people still make the trip to the countryside on Christmas, the experience has been diluted. For most children, December was when parents exiled all of them to the village. For the kids, this was fun at its best. It was a perfect reunion with all the cousins, every relative known to man. It was a festive liberation as they enjoyed the best that rural life had to offer. By the time Christmas came around, it was simply a culmination of this reunion.
6. Christmas Carols
If you didn’t get to sing; “Silent night, holy night! All is Calm, all is bright. Round yon virgin, mother and child.” Of course, you didn’t have to know the lyrics to these songs. You simply needed the confidence to hum along. Churches always had something planned along. Sometimes you would be asked to show up for the Carols with a candle. All lights would be switched off and the candle lights would illuminate the scene.
Time forward, it’s Tweny Tweny, the year that became a year. We can only hope to emerge stronger. Merry Christmas to the generation that has braved the pandemic!