A few years ago, there were plenty of women at home for Christmas. My mother and my sisters and their daughters made the bulky of the plenty women. There were lots of women visitors. There was a double fold reason for their presence. Some came because they were from backgrounds that could not afford the niceties of Christmas, and my mother’s home was always open and had plenty of food and drink to share. Extended family members would make uncountable rounds. Kids from my numerous aunts and uncles, and some merely from the neighbouring homesteads in the village would ‘visit’. The second group completing the list of visitors were from well to do families. They visited, I suppose, to check and compare what was on the table with what they had in their homes. Women learn through different ways.
My brothers were cheerful men who would get lost from home the very Christmas morning after church service. They were older than me (and more handsome), so they had girlfriends to keep them company. I would head back home for ‘mazoe orange crush’ or raspberry to colour my tongue before getting off to the local growth point to meet friends. Meeting friends was secondary; I intended to show off the newest clothes. I don’t see kids in new clothes these past Christmases! Neither coloured lips!
"Broiler" chickens were delicious and preferable for Christmas unlike the village ‘five-year-old cock’. Rice was not only the preserve of families like the one I grew up in, most families would stock such well ahead of time. In the corner of the sitting room (which we called dining room), was a crate of softies (every soft drink then was referred to as Coke). With the trickling in of visitors beginning as early as 8am, my mother always missed Christmas church services.
Most homes were open and welcoming with a mouthwatering smell all day long. One could ‘pass by’ and get invited for something to munch. You did not need to be hungry nor thirsty. People looked forward to this great day. It was a day of goodwill, of transcending social and economic classes.
There was a gramophone at home, with turntables, later it was a double deck cassette player bought by my elder brother. I preferred to go down to the shops where there was blurring music. Those were the days of Venenzia by Dembo, then Mabhauwa, Tiri paHunyani by Katarina and Mukadota. Those who would have just completed forth form would relax yet worried about results coming out beginning of February. Matavire at one time had the hit song Ma ‘U’. That song was played very much around Christmas. Those who had children, in the midst of this fanfare, would begin getting worried for January meant school fees.
Nonetheless, Christmas was a moment for all. Employers paid bonus and lavished employees with the famous Christmas parties before closing business until beginning of January. Christmas was a time of meeting family, friends and neighbours. People travelled to their rural homes. Beer was shared at the local shopping centre. The young boys coming from town had to show off. They bought ‘scuds’ for village friends, whilst they partake of the clear beers. In the process, they bought Lemon Twist and ‘vanilla biscuits’ for their sweethearts.
Things have changed now. Many people cannot afford to travel to the village for many reasons. Some cannot just afford so they spend Christmas wherever they are. Villages are literally empty, with less to ‘merry’ for. There isn’t much money to spend and people are stingy! They have forgotten being hospitable and that sense of sharing of yester-year. They just cannot afford to spend on anyone. The houses are no longer decorated; neither is there lots of food and drink.
With such a set up, Christmas is turning into a lonely day that’s just passing. The economic situation in the country has not been permitting extravagance. It’s not the in-affordability only that’s scattering people.
Political and social forces have driven families and communities apart. Some have moved to the Diaspora. I heard the slim boy next door in China! He is my cousin. My aunt has moved to London and my uncle is in Australia. My formers classmates are said to be in South Africa, so is Rudo, my once sweetheart. Koronyera closed his shop during the 2008 fiasco. Sabhuku Gonye’s son disappeared after killing the family next door during the campaigns. Ini wacho, am in exile!
There is also the fear of elections next year. It’s frightening because there are people who look for the slightest reason to make other people uncomfortable. Some political leaders are skimming against supporters of others. They train unemployed youth to maim, rape, destroy and kill! They come with guns, with machetes and other dangerous implements. They take everything from others, including taking lives. The political leaders have turned sons against their brothers, against their mothers, against their sisters and against their fathers! The very thought of elections makes all shudder to think of the New Year. Who will survive the marauding youth trained not only to instill fear, but to cause physical harm, to destroy property and to kill? The other year we had elections, cousins and uncles and neighbours did not make it to Christmas let alone to the year of the inclusive government. They were not so fortunate, the political anarchy swallowed them.
Christmas is so different from the days gone. I just sit and wonder if Christmas marks the close of one year and beginning of another. Could this be my last Christmas? Or I live in hope for a new dispensation!
Capulet B Chakupeta