January 1, 2020 chartreusian

Noeli Nziza 2019

setting-up-the-Christmas-tree night

This year is our fifth Christmas in Burundi. If I’m counting right, since we were married that makes: 8 in France, 5 here, 1 in Kazakstan, and the remaining 9 in Canada.

Despite being here several years, there are definitely still parts about it that feel odd. It still feels strange to go camping at Christmas and have hot days swimming in the lake, with monkeys pestering us as we cook. Seems like we should be skating on a lake, and pestered by…icy roads.

From what I can gather, it doesn’t seem like Christmas is anywhere close to as big of a deal here, even in Church. There is no mention of Advent, no leading up to Christmas. Our local church will likely put up a coniferous tree in the corner of the church for Dec 25, but my guess is that probably is heavily influenced by the fact that there have been Americans living on this hill on an off for the past 30 years or so.

The last Sunday before Christmas there was a Christmas song or two, and it was definitely a ‘special’ Sunday – judging from the number of pastors present, and how they were dressed. But it’s still a long cry, at least to my western eyes, of Christmas preparation. I’m sure there are many things that point to Christmas here that I just don’t see.

cookie decorating….when the power goes off

The same way that a Burundian even after a few years may not notice that mandarine oranges in Canada or revillon chocolates in France are a clear indicator of the season, there are definitely things that get past me here. Perhaps the (in normal non-disastrous climate change years) tapering off of the rains. Maybe its the casava being harvested?

Perhaps this is the constant reality of living in a culture so different from the one(s) I am more used to. The things that seem apparent aren’t’ so to me. That is, after all, essentially a definition of culture: ‘the things that seem so obvious to a group of people that they feel no need to explain them.’

So I guess it’s more accurate to say I am not aware of the things that indicate Christmas is coming. In some ways, I’m kind of thankful for that. It has stripped away all of the purely cultural holiday things and forced us to look at Christmas for what it really is.

Although, I still do miss egg nog.