What Christmas is Like in Uganda

It’s fascinating to hear how Christmas is celebrated in Uganda, and how Milly and family celebrated it with some of her Kingsway students. Many of them have relatives to go home to for the holiday break, but some of the orphans do not. These come home to Milly’s house in Kampala and celebrate Christmas with her family. (She calls all of the children at Kingsway her “sons” and “daughters” and they call her “Mama Milly.”)

Gifts before Christmas

When Milly was in the US this fall, All Saints Anglican Church (in Holland, MI) sent back clothes for her to share with the children at Kingsway. So before the holiday she shared the clothes that she brought back with her students and other needy people that she and her family cares for.
Milly writes,
We give new clothes and shoes as gifts for people to dress well to welcome Jesus. We say, when a big visitor visits, you dress your best. So our Lord Jesus is the greatest visitor ever! So everyone must put on a new dress if possible to welcome Him!

A new dress is important because a poor person has one or two clothes he/she uses all the time. By the time of the next Christmas, they are too dirty and old. So such people will need new clothes!

This is Agnes and her daughter Peace in their new Christmas clothes. She is Milly’s niece who works as the cook at Kingsway. She is a single mom who needs to support herself and her daughter.

Preparations beforehand

Sometime a week or two beforehand people start cleaning their houses. This is because they are celebrating Jesus’ arrival on Christmas day, and how can Jesus come to visit a dirty house? They also put up a Christmas tree.

Milly writes,
We have Christmas tree too, but our Christmas lights all died! Last Christmas we only put cards on our tree with candies (= candy canes from the US) and some few Christmas decorations.

Feasting on Christmas Day

On Christmas Day, everything begins with putting on your best and going to church. After church is done, we come home to feast and play games. This is usually the only day many people eat meat all year long besides Easter Sunday.

Milly writes,
The typical midday celebration meal contains: chicken, pork, some meat, assorted vegetables, mixed vegetable sauce, soup, gravy, peanut sauce, rice, matoke, potatoes, macaroni, pumpkin, pineapples, watermelon, and sodas.

Lots of Fun, Singing and a Quiz!

After the big Christmas midday meal, children play. Everyone is wearing some of the new clothes that they were given. Last year Lois brought a “Wubble” ball that they are tossing around.
After playing we have a goat roast. It is done at dusk, that is, after children play and settle down. We call this muchomo. Muchomo is either a goat roast/ pig roast/ beef roast etc. This roasted meat is a special occasion food traditionally. This tradition entered into Christmas celebration. We always have a goat roast every Christmas!
After eating the roasted meat, children sing Christmas songs. Sometimes this is done interchangeable with a Christmas quiz.

The Christmas Cake

After that comes the Christmas cake!  A cake is something that must be bought at a bakery because we don’t have an oven (a “cooker”) for baking otherwise. Milly doesn’t usually spend money on prepared food, so I (Lois) asked her if this has been a tradition for very long.

Milly wrote,

Yes, we started getting Christmas cake! We used not to. But we started getting money, we joined other people in buying Christmas cake. It is a big deal for children. Especially my Kingsway children! After singing the Christmas songs is the cake cutting. This is always the last item on Christmas program.

Here is Milly trying to cut the cake, but her three-year-old granddaughter Hosanna isn’t letting her, or letting her mother (Faith Freida) take a picture.  Kids will be kids!

Merry Christmas from Uganda!

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