A rural Christmas is so special, here’s why

Africa Moyo Deputy News Editor
Many people across the country eagerly await Christmas Day for various reasons; the large quantities of food, settling scores, meeting friends and relatives and just winding down after a long year of toil.

I am not well-versed with what happens on Christmas Day in urban areas since I was born in rural Mberengwa, grew up there, and only left for Harare after my “O” Levels.

But I have religiously celebrated the day in my rural home, even after moving to Harare for my tertiary education, and eventually employment.

There was only one year — 1999 — that I didn’t got to Mberengwa after travelling to my late mother, Laiza’s rural home in Matsvitsi, Zvimba.

The people I interact with in Harare tell me that on Christmas Day they will be criss-crossing the city, in search of the ideal place to spend quality time with friends and relatives.

Some have fallen in love with KwaMereki, Family 24, Pamuzinda, Zindoga in Waterfalls, Mega 1 and Mega 2, Paramount and Jongwe Corner in Hatfield and need not look any further.

Others go to Junction 24 along Seke Road, Ziko just outside Chitungwiza and Mutangadura along the Mutare-Harare Highway.

Some of these places offer jumping castles, slides and other play facilities which keep children entertained all day while their parents enjoy themselves.

But it is in the rural areas where Christmas Day is glorified.

Young people, and those in the twilight of their lives, cannot wait for Christmas Day and preparations for day gather momentum as soon as the summer cropping season kicks off.

Those old enough not to expect new clothes or pocket money from parents or guardians look for part-time jobs to raise not only money to spend on the day, but also to buy new clothes.

After losing my father, Clephas Mparuri Moyo, in 1984, the burden of taking care for the family was heaped on my mother’s shoulders.

Because of competing needs in a family of six, there was no guarantee new clothes would come every Christmas, so I was forced to look for part-time jobs, mostly weeding my neighbours’ fields, to raise money.

On the day, many families in my neighbourhood would start with a two-hour church service at the Lutheran Church situated at Mawani Primary School, where I learnt.

The church service served two purposes — to thank God for guidance and protection throughout the year, and to show off the new clothes.

Those without new clothes were not entirely bothered, particularly if they had bread, jam, margarine, chicken, goat meat and rice at home.

Straight after the service, people dispersed to their respect homes and the “real deal” would start.

Everyone — young and old — wants to visit the kitchen every now and then to assess progress.

Even those that usually did not want to cooperate when food was being prepared on any other day, want to lend a helping hand so that food is ready as quickly as possible.

For breakfast, “strong tea” — prepared with “gallons” of sterilised milk, would be served together with heaps of bread with both margarine and jam, served from a winnowing basket (rusero).

There was no end to drinking tea until all the bread was finished.

After tea, females rush back into the kitchen — without being prodded — to start preparing lunch while males ensured there was enough firewood.

In the meantime, music would be blazing from various types of radios.

By the way, a radio is a prized possession in the rural areas and if it did not have adequate battery power throughout the year, arrangements would be made specifically for Christmas.

Others have made “huge” investments into solar panels and accompanying batteries to ensure music is not disrupted on Christmas Day.

At lunch, rice is served and excited children smear their lips with the fat from either chicken or beef as evidence to friends that they, indeed, had a good time on the day.

Considering the price volatility this year, many families in rural and even urban areas, did not have as much meat as was the case in previous years.

This means good food and beverages will be much-sought after today.

So popular is Christmas Day in the rural areas, that it is difficult to pin down young boys to go and herd cattle, and parents end up taking up the role upon themselves.

The young boys have their own plans too; to flaunt their new clothes, if any, and dancing to music at the shopping centre.

Mawani Business Centre in Mberengwa is about 4km from my home, but no one seems to care about that on Christmas Day.

The other fairly bigger business centre, Vutika, which is located along the dust road to Mataga Growth Point, is about 15km away, but it is always swarmed by villagers who want to either drink or dance the day away.

But the place has become notorious for public violence. All grudges carried over from January, are normally physically resolved on Christmas Day, never mind that “Boxing Day” is just 24 hours away.

So ugly is the violence that occurs at Vutika that heavily armed police officers are now regularly deployed there to keep an eye on those bent on causing violence.

Away from the public violence, sungura music especially that of Alick Macheso, and now Simon Mutambi and the Cobra Kings together with Mark Ngwazi and Njanja Express, will be blazing from the bottle stores’ sound systems, eliciting mesmerising dancing skills that will leave even Franco Slomo green with envy.

It is unfortunate that due pressing commitments at work, I am unable to join folks in the rural areas this year.

I have prepared a considerable quantity of meat for braaing with a few family members, and have an invitation from my uncle, Tinashe Mtemeri, who lives in Kuwadzana 5, but I wonder if the day will be as merry as it would have been had I made it to Mberengwa.

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