The Christmas Kenyans Never Had

President Uhuru Kenyatta and Jomo Kenyatta
  • It’s a totally different Christmas. The last time Kenya – and indeed the world experienced a near similar Christmas was in December 1918 during the Flu Pandemic.

    Mzee Jomo Kenyatta was only 21 years old – but he didn’t have to wear a face mask – no one did in 1918. 

    It’s possible the Spanish Flu was only a rumour in Kenya – but it did affect Christmas especially for Britons whose Prime Minister and war leader, David Lloyd George, one of the first casualties of the Spanish Flu, died in September 1918.

    On September 11, 1918, Lloyd arrived in Manchester to be presented with the keys to the city. Female munitions workers and cheered him. But later that evening, he developed a sore throat and fever and collapsed.

    Uhuru Kenyatta (left) and former President the late Jomo Kenyatta (right) posing for a photo.

    The influenza pandemic of 1918-19 killed more people than World War I (WWI) at more than 50 million.

    Today – 102 years later –  another pandemic Christmas is here with us – one where a midnight sojourn to your local Church to celebrate the arrival of Christmas – and the birth of Jesus Christ –  will definitely get you arrested. 

    Mzee Jomo’s son Uhuru Kenyatta – is the president in the middle of a Christmas pandemic. But unlike his old man – he has to wear a face mask – at least in public.

    This is a different Christmas. Already very few supermarkets in Kenya – if any – stocked those fake snows outside them – and Santa – the ones you often see in Nairobi malls during Christmas will be at home – keeping social distance.

    Of course, Christmas is a time when families try and be with one another. Thousands often travel from cities, back to the villages to irrigate throats of villagers with the few coins they made in the city – and while at it – cause serious inflation in that small towns. This, sadly, will not be happening this Christmas period because you probably lost your job in Nairobi due to the vagaries of Covid-19. Or, if you kept your job – half of your salary was halved to help the company survive the virus. And there are no signs you will be getting your full salary anytime soon now that Kenya’s Covid-19 cases are nosing 100,000 mark.

    Kenyans have a much thinner purse this Christmas compared to past years. According to the Kenya 2020 December Holiday Retail Survey, retailers are expecting a drop for spenders of between Ksh 31,000 and Ksh 500,000. Only 2 per cent of Kenyans are likely to spend Ksh 100,000 to Ksh 500,000 for Christmas, compared to 14 per cent last year. 

    Meanwhile, some 8 in every 10 Kenyans are planning a low-budget Christmas according to a December shopping survey by Viffa Consult.

    The few city people who sneaked to the village – even after Health CS Mutahi Kagwe sounded a warning – will be careful not to annoy the area Chief by entertaining crowds of former primary school mates, cousins, in-laws and drunkards.

    Back to Nairobi. Those who will make it to Church in the morning (a majority will no doubt attend the morning Christmas Service because they didn’t party last night till morning due to curfew restrictions). 

    The Christmas hymns, carols, songs, poems and dances will be, however, subdued because no one likes it these days when you shout next to them lest you end up spreading the virus. Of course, Christians, and everyone, in general, would love to go to heaven, but not like that.

    One can tell that not very many goats will go to ‘be with the lord’. I hear goats don’t taste good when eaten in silence – without Tom, Dick and window-licking Harry arriving with tones of booze ready for non-stop party and shouting so loud they can wake up the dead.

    This time around – the goats will have to be eaten in silence lest the police get wind of your small gathering.  

    Meanwhile – guests will be oscillating between wearing their face masks, contributing to discussions – and biting nyama choma.

    Family and friends toasting drinks at home
    Family and friends toasting drinks at home

    That said, Kenyans – for the first time – will not be inviting of their relatives from as far as Timbuktu to come and help Mama with Christmas preparations; breathing into hundreds of balloons (and people fear breathing in public these days), cutting and tying ribbons and paper decorations. 

    Hand sanitizers and face masks will be part of the Christmas furniture – with all discussions centring around Corona and in silence – because you don’t want to alert the police that 10 of you are gathered at a compound in Utawala estate trying to drain EABL. wishes all our esteemed readers a Merry Christmas full of joy and love.


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