My Ugandan Christmas

Christmas is arguably the most celebrated holiday in the world. It is the day when Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. Surprisingly, there is no mention of Christmas in the Bible. So what is the origin of Christmas Day?  According to

The first recorded date of Christmas being celebrated on December 25th was in 336 AD during the time of Roman Emperor Constantine (the first Christian Roman Emperor).

A few years later, Pope Julius 1 officially declared that the birth of Jesus would be celebrated on 25th December.

December 25th might have also been chosen because the Winter Solstice and the ancient Pagan Roman Empire midwinter festivals called “Saturnalia” and “Dies Natalis Solis Invicti’ took place around this date. It was a date when people already celebrated things.

Despite the fact that very few people seem to know much about the origins of Christmas, a lot of people look forward to celebrating it every year.

Growing up, Christmas was the holiday I always looked forward to with excitement. My parents would take me and my siblings out shopping for new clothes. I would help my mom decorate the Christmas tree in our sitting room and switch on the Christmas lights. 

Then I would stand in awe as the lights glowed. We also got to give Christmas cards to our neighbors and friends and also receive cards in return. It was the only time of the year where everybody seemed to be in a good mood.

Christmas was the only time when we would have two crates of soda, a fruit cake, roasted chicken, sausages, corn flakes, and other mouth watering delicacies in our kitchen all at the same time. 

There were also a number of great cartoons, television shows and movies on television so there was no moment of boredom. On December 25th, we would drive out to Entebbe and have a picnic at Botanical gardens and enjoy the scenery by Lake Victoria. These activities made Christmas a memorable season.


Image by Kenneth Peter Were on the blog {link  to}

Another thing I enjoyed about this time of the year was Father Christmas. Father Christmas was this man we would see on local television dressed in a red costume who would give presents to children.

At other times, I would see an inflated Father Christmas in his red suit outside a shop playing an inflated saxophone or making robotic movements with his hands to the sound of Christmas tunes programmed into its body.

Our Father Christmas differed from the Santa Claus of western culture in many ways. Father Christmas did not live at the North Pole. He did not have a sleigh, reindeer, or elves. He would not slide down the chimneys of people’s houses because our houses do not have chimneys.

The best chance of seeing Father Christmas would be at a party. A church, NGO (Non Governmental Organization) or business organization would organize a party where Father Christmas would make an appearance and give the children sweets and small gifts. 

I will always remember the Father Christmas of my childhood despite the fact that I have never seen him or received a gift from him.


Ugandan Father Christmas/Santa Claus. Photo courtesy of Paul and Janet Gibson link to {—african-style}

Christmas for me had always been about receiving and never giving. I looked forward to what I would be given not what I could give someone else. My local church organizes a Christmas cantata that runs for 7 days till Christmas Eve every year.

One particular Christmas Eve after the cantata, I went to the parking lot and entered the front seat of my parent’s car. There were a lot of people in the parking lot trying to get to their cars too. In the midst of that crowd, I saw a street boy moving from car to car begging for a few coins.

During the performance a performer read from Luke 2:14 that says, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” The lines “and on earth peace, good will toward men” from that verse came back to my mind as this street boy came to the side of the car I was seated on.

He held out his hands begging for some money. I asked myself how I could wish “Peace on Earth” to this street boy who would not be able to celebrate Christmas as I would because of the circumstances surrounding his life.

A part of me felt like asking my parents to take the boy home and give him some of my clothes and a good meal but that would not have been possible for many reasons. I still remember that little boy who was begging for some money at my Church’s parking lot.

Ever since then, I have purposed to give a coin to at least one underprivileged person on the streets. It may not do much but it is one of my little ways of spreading God’s good will to all men.

In our world where there is a lot of unrest, let us each do something to spread God’s peace on the earth this Christmas. It can be something as small as posting an encouraging Bible verse as your Facebook status.

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