Christmas in Uganda looks a little different than it does in the U.S. For both, it’s a joyful season, but in Uganda there is no snow, there are fewer decorations, and it’s most often celebrated as a time to relax, reconnect with family, enjoy good meals, and make visits to old friends and relatives back in the village. Our Sseko ladies explain that being surrounded by family and friends, savoring the peaceful day, and enjoying the food is what they love most about Christmas.
In Uganda, one of the most anticipated parts of the season is the food! A typical Uganda meal consists of one starch “food” (rice, matooke plantains, corn-flour posho, chapati flatbread, or potatoes), and one main “soup” (beef, goat, chicken, fish, peanut sauce, or beans), and perhaps a little vegetable side. There aren’t many special dishes reserved for the holidays, but at Christmas, families look forward to variety, and often band together in groups to cook a feast that includes a little of everything. Beans, eggs, and peanuts are a more common daily protein source, and meat dishes are often saved for special occasions. Aunt Jennifer looks forward to a church service and then a big lunch of chicken, rice, and matooke.
Josephine shares a house with Justine, and they plan to relax, make jewelry, and prepare a whole variety of foods during the holidays.
While people in the cities often forgo decorations or adopt the Christmas trees and Santa hats of western culture, in some places in the village, families decorate by painting flowers on the outside of their houses–with cow dung. In the evenings, people enjoy drinks and dancing late into the night. Many of the Sseko women live in Kampala and have their families nearby, but Racheal’s family lives in the village in Luwero. She will travel to visit her parents and see old friends that she’s known since primary school.
In the city, many families celebrate by taking some time to do activities together; visiting beaches, hotels, nice restaurants, and even the zoo. Stella plans to stay in Kampala with her family this year and she is looking forward to doing just that- she’d like to spend at least one relaxing day at the beach.
Presents are usually reserved for children, and kids in Uganda don’t count it as Christmas without a new outfit or two. Eva has already purchased and hidden away a pink dress for her daughter Julianna, and she’s very excited to watch her open her gift. Sylvia remembers receiving a green dress one year that she absolutely treasured, and Josephine lights up at the recollection of her favorite- a dress with flowers embroidered on the pockets and lapel. She laughs, though, because unfortunately she grew out of it very quickly.
Parents sometimes try to trick or surprise their children. Georgia remembers one Christmas when her mother was traveling. They’d already received an outfit to open at a school Christmas party earlier in December, and had been told not to expect anything during their vacation. But on Christmas morning, they found presents anyway- a dress, watch, and even shoes.
It’s been a busy year here at Sseko Uganda, and more than anything, the ladies are excited for a time to rest and enjoy their favorite foods, friends, and family members. We hope you’ll follow suit!