by Moira Brehony AMMM Ireland/Tanzania 18.12.2021
As a family we have spent Christmas in East Africa for more than thirty years. What makes Christmas so special is that preparation for Christmas day begins one week before the big day. Assembling the crib of our African figurines and local kanga material and putting up a sisal Christmas tree. Christmas has always been a family occasion and on Christmas eve the youngest member present places the infant Jesus in the crib and we light the Christmas candle. This year we are so blessed with our new granddaughter being the youngest member of the family, at seven-months-old baby Enya Joan Hills Brehony with help from her parents Peadar and Lucy will perform this task. We are not bombarded by the commercial scenes, so for us Christmas is a time of sharing what we have with those who have so little.
For the past several years we have invited the children of our long-term staff for a simple Christmas party on the Sunday closest to Christmas. 25 children and their Mums come together and meet each other. Some come long distances and some from the local village and although they are shy to begin with, they end up with arms around each other before they leave. It is usually a very colourful occasion as we have people from different tribes and dress codes and all looking their best.We share a meal of rice and meat and spices called ‘Pilau’ with vegetables and fruit, sitting on the grass and each child gets a soda and a balloon, how simple is that! And in 2020 each child got a school bag!! One child in particular Salma who is 12 years old and the youngest daughter of Sulimani, our day gatekeeper, really enjoys this event. Salma is non-verbal and mentally challenged but she loves music and being the centre of attention. Over the years the other children have gotten to know Salma and she is very affectionate towards them.As the children grow older, they come back each year to help in the preparation of the food and make sure each child is enjoying themselves.We enjoy going to Midnight Mass at the Missionaries of Africa which is about a forty-minute drive for us. Of course, we could attend our local parish church and be ready for a three-to-four-hour service arriving home in the early hours!! May the spirit of Christmas continue to be alive in our hearts and minds as we move forward.