Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Merry "Khisimisi"

by Harvey

The word "Christmas" is in Chichewa, the national vernacular in Malawi, translated "Khisimisi." I take it that it is just a vernacular mispronounciation by our ancestors of what they heard from their colonial masters. It turns out that there are hundreds of such "vernacularised" English words in my country. However, unfortunately for my people, most of them are swear words. I guess that says a lot about what sort of communication really took place between the colonisers and the natives.

But yes, we have Christmas celebrations in Malawi too. And the build up is just as crazy as anywhere else in the world. Especially in rural areas, where Christmas Day is that only day of the year when you get to have some form of meat at the table, except for those seasons when people get to eat chickens that have died of some diseases, the anticipation is way too much. All year's saving would be put to good use on Christmas Eve, just to make sure that they are ready for the 25th. In our culture, we don't share expensive presents. In fact, we rarely share presents at all. Instead, Christmas is the day when you wear your very best and then go out to communal meals. Yes, we dress up, and we share food! Everyone would make sure, if possible that is, to be seen around in some new clothes. Needless to say, in most cases, this was the only day when people got new clothes, usually just one pair of pants or a dress, most of those bought second-hand from bales of clothes from the West. With all the "new" clothes on, the village was now ready for the communal meals that would be inviting in all directions. After eating, games and dances would occupy the village until late. Is it amazing that we don't need a lot of things to be happy?

This will be the 9th Christmas that I have celebrated away from home. And yes, I miss the family and the village celebrations. But as I think of it, I realize things must be different now. My village now has more HIV/AIDS orphans than responsible people that could take care of them. In my immeadiate family, my father took in some of her sisters children when she died of AIDS in 1993. What started off as a family affair, with my dad helping his nephews, later became an orphanage with many kids. (My home area is one of the worst hit areas in the country). And Christmas became more and more stressful. How do we manage to get food and clothes for these many kids? Lucky enough, miracles have always occurred when we needed them most.

As we celebrate the season here, in this blessed abundance, lets us lift up in our prayers, and wherever possible, make donations to credible organizations for those children who will not get a present this year. The truth of the matter is that the majority of the world's population lives in poverty, and a majority of those, in abject poverty.


Post a Comment

<< Home