As kids we’ve been told many stories about Christmas and Santa Claus, so when winter knocked in, we couldn’t wait to celebrate it. Some people even started as early as December 1st.
Christmas is considered as one of the most important celebration in the Christian community. Alongside New Years, they’re the most famous winter holidays during the year. These are the times when the streets are colored in red, green and white and people seemed to be in great spirit. Children are happier and parents are more cheerful. Families get together and airports see more movements than during any other time of the year. Everyone is eager to go back home and spend some quality time with their loved ones. More than half of the world celebrates the birth of the Christ, including several Muslim countries. December is considered a Holy month almost everywhere.
This year, I’ve finally got the chance to witness it for the first time in Kinshasa. It’s a little different than what I was used to, but at the end of the day, people come together for the same reason. While people celebrate Christmas in the snow, we, here, in Kinshasa celebrate it under the sun and rain because it’s rainy season here. On Christmas Eve, all the churches were chanting and celebrating the birth of Jesus of Nazareth. The streets were illuminated, and the singing of Christmas carols were louder than ever. Christmas trees and decorations are set up in shops, restaurants, schools, local attractions and homes. At la Gare Centrale de Kinshasa, you’d find a huge tree, food stands and popcorn sellers. December 25th is a public holiday across the country. The roads were less trafficked as people traveled to their native villages to celebrate with families and foreigners leave to their respective home country to be with family and loved ones. Others just choose to celebrate it elsewhere for a change of scenery. Christmas is the time where children get to see Santa Claus, receive their wrapped gifts, eat candy canes and dress in their best outfit. Children are given presents at home. Schools often organize cultural event for their students. A day where they get together with their classmates, eat, drink, dance, play and receive gifts and parents get to see them in actions and meet with the school principal and teachers. I decided to do something different and attend one at the Restauration school, located in Pigeon. It started at ten in the morning with the presence of parents, siblings and teachers. The school principal started with a prayer, followed by the national anthem, then students started reciting poems and sing different songs alongside their teacher. Later on, Santa Claus came by and distributed gifts to all the children, then they had a snack and left. It was a first good experience on that day that many consider blessed.
During that time, people cook everything from chicken, to meat, fish and local dishes. It’s that time of the year when people with less money can eat meat or poultry and buy new clothes for their children. At night, whether in downtown or in the slums of Kinshasa, children and young people gather around a spectacle of fireworks. Christmas is always a good time for everyone, whether or not you believe in it, you’re part of it.