The Christmas of 2013 was a Christmas celebration I will never forget. The first reason for this is obvious; it took place in Malawi. The second one is that it was it was successful beyond expectations.
I didn’t have to think twice about staying in Malawi over the holidays. That was something I decided before even coming here. I wanted to experience a completely different Christmas, one that could not compare to the other 22 of my life. I can safely say that the mission was accomplished.
During Christmas in Norway it’s more or less the same drill every year for me;
1. I try to have the presents ready early, so I won’t have to run around at the mall just days before Christmas day stressing with the final purchases at the last minute. Because of exams I always fail at this.
2. I put on Christmas music every night and wait for that magical spirit of Christmas to come rolling in on me like a soft blanket. The blanket often presents itself, but only on my tired-of-reading-for-exams brain.
3. I try to enjoy this peaceful, quiet and beautiful time of the year, but oh so often, I end up stressing (again) with all of the external things like presents, exams and the Christmas cards I still haven’t written. Even more, I stress with the fact that I’m stressing and won’t get to enjoy my favourite time of the year. But, when Christmas finally arrives, I’m always filled with calm, gratitude of my family and Christmas spirit.
This years Christmas preparations and celebration was different, not only because of the absence of exams.
There was one particular rumour that we had all heard about the Malawian way of Christmas celebration that kept repeating itself. Two things that were almost guaranteed in any household on Christmas day; rice and Fanta. Two luxurious necessities that every Malawian family should be able to afford at this particular time of year. Other than that it did not take us too long to realize that Malawian Christmas does not have the same kinds of traditions as in Norway. The only criteria are church, rice and Fanta. Other than that, people basically continue with their every day life. Those of us Norwegians remaining in Malawi over the holidays decided to have a celebration with our visitors from Norway and our closest Malawian friends. It turned out to be the most original, intimate and nicest Christmas I’ve ever had.
On the 24th of December we gathered at our house, the azungu residence in Chilinde. We were nine Norwegians, four Malawians and one Englishman. Considering the amount of people squeezed into our house we had to be creative with the seating arrangement. To make it nice and cosy, we put pillows and blankets on the floor and placed the banana plant in the middle. This banana plant was working as a Christmas tree, and we had decorated it with glitter and ornaments. Espen and Bård were responsible for decoration, a task they did not take lightly, and our entire house was filled up with cheesy Christmas lights, stuffed Santas, ornaments and angels. There was no doubt that we were trying to create a real Christmas house and it was absolutely impossible not to be touched by the spirit of Christmas as you entered the living room.
As our guests arrived we were welcoming them with Christmas carols and some extremely elegant hairbows with snowmen on them (yes, it was obligatory to have them on your head for the entire Christmas evening). The traditional Christmas meal with meat, potatoes and so on would be way to complicated to make on our little kitchen, so we rather served rice porridge traditionally with butter, sugar and cinnamon on top. In absence of almonds we used a ground nut and the lucky winner actually got an imported marzipan pig. To not disappoint our Malawian friends we of course served Fanta as well. The traditional gløgg with red wine was a big hit and so was the gingerbread we baked the day before.
This evening was filled with so much laughter, joy and friendship and even though it did sting a little to not be with my family, I think we all agreed that this was absolutely a Christmas we will never forget and definitely one of the most intimate and down to earth celebrations of Christmas ever. No stressing to the mall, no putting on high heals, no grand pile of presents under the tree. There was also no snow or cold, no traditional Christmas meals. This Christmas was so different because it was the first for all of us to be away from our families. But at least for this night, it felt like I really was with family.
We raised our cups of sweet gløgg with red wine for friends and while the stars were shining brightly above our little house in our little street, it did feel a lot like Christmas.