Christmas was quite a time. Most of the kids in our homes went on “home visits” to relatives or friends over the holiday, but there was a small remnant that didn’t have anywhere to go and stayed at the homes. Ruth and I took 6 of those kids into our house over the so that they could feel like they got to go on a ‘home visit’ too. It was really fun having a full house, if a little chaotic at times. 5 of the 6 kids who stayed with us are siblings, but because the boys live at the Boys’ Home and the girls live at Karundas, they don’t always get to spend a lot of time together. It was really special watching them interact as a family together while they were with us. Despite (or perhaps because of) their unfortunate background that has left them with no adult relatives capable of caring for them, they have stuck together and really love and watch out for each other.
Wanting to make Christmas special for the kids who’d stayed in the homes, Ruth and I instigated a Christmas party for the kids still at the Boys Home and Karundas. After the Christmas church service, we brought the Karundas kids over to the Boys’ and had a big Christmas feast. We also planned games and activities for everyone to participate in throughout the day. It was a huge hit. Everyone seemed to really enjoy themselves and left very full and very happy. After the party we returned home and the kids staying with us opened a few gifts that Ruth and I had purchased for them. It was a very low key day compared to most western Christmas celebrations, with no hype or real build up, but it was a day overflowing with joy.
I have to admit though, apart from the small gift exchange at the end of the day and all of the joyful celebrations throughout, it didn’t feel very “Christmassy” to me at first. I struggled with this throughout the day, but then God reminded me that those things that were lacking in my mind - a candlelight Christmas eve service, cookies, red sweaters, snow, a nativity, etc. – those things aren’t really what makes Christmas Christmas. They’re wonderful things, but when it comes down to it, they are just my own culturally comfortable ways of celebrating. What makes Christmas Christmas is Emmanuel – God with us – and that can be and is celebrated in so many different and beautiful ways in so many different and beautiful cultures and countries around the world – and I think that such diversity is extremely pleasing and glorifying to God. So although I missed my red sweater and I didn’t get to sing “silent night” by candle light, I did get to sing “Mungu Aliupenda Ulimwengu” in the sunlight while wearing a green T-shirt, which is a pretty great way to celebrate Christ's birth too.
fun fact about Kenyan Christmas: On Christmas eve, many Kenyans will stay up until midnight to ring in the birth of Christ, kind of like American new years. At midnight everyone will yell and bang pots and drums to announce the birth of Christ. Pretty noisy, but also pretty cool J