How Easter holidays are spent in Kenya
It is barely afternoon on the eve of Easter Friday. The rush is on. The operators at Machakos bus stage have doubled the fares. Mumia, surrounded by his household items such as seats, bed and mattress, has been waiting for a bus to take him and his family to Busia for many hours now. Anxious, he rushes from one bus to another trying to find the cheapest and fastest means to his home place.
Somewhere in the Nairobi concrete jungle, you have just closed work for the week and you are headed to the car park to head home to join your family for Easter celebrations, this year, the Easter celebrations are at your grandparents’ farm in Nyeri. The whole family will be there.
You are worried though. You have not been doing well on the weighing scale and your husband has not been supportive either. Always negatively commenting on how your tummy is growing. The whole world over, festivities are crowned with food and you would like to celebrate with everyone without picking up excessive carbs.
Easter weekend is the climax of a period of fasting and penitence called Lent. It begins on Ash Wednesday and lasts for 40 days. In 2018 Ash Wednesday fell on 14th February, normally celebrated as valentine’s day. This was a blessing in disguise for most men who did not want to spend on their girlfriends by pretentiously prioritizing Ash Wednesday.
The Sunday immediately prior to Easter is called Palm Sunday, and it commemorates Jesus’ triumphant entry in Jerusalem on a donkey, when followers laid palm leaves across the road to greet him. In Kenya, children often bring palm leaves to church, while singing beautiful hymns. Business savvy youths on this particular day will be selling palm leaves outside church precincts for anything between Ksh 100 and Ksh 500.
At home, you cook dinner for family but your anticipation for the feasting in the next few days makes you fast, taking a glass of orange juice to bed. In the morning, you are the chaperon for everyone to ensure everyone gets into that car so you can arrive in Nyeri in time for lunch and family meeting.
Mumias’ family had to brave the dark rainy and cold night at Machakos country bus punctuated by occasional arrival of a bus causing stampede and anticipation in the waiting passengers. None of these is destined for Busia. At day break, he is lucky and boards at inflated prices of Ksh 2,800 instead of the usual Ksh 1,000.
Good Friday, Easter Sunday and Easter Monday are the most significant days of the lent period.
Jesus’ death on the cross, after being sentenced by Pontius Pilate, the roman ruler in the province of Judea around 30 A.D is commemorated on Good Friday. On this day, across the world, there are processions in many cities, re-enacting the way of the Cross.
In some cities in the pacific, fatal mock crucifixions are held. The processions eventually end up at a church in the afternoon where a special service is held to remember the significance of Jesus’ death.
On arrival in Nyeri, way after lunch time, thanks to the annoying traffic jam after Thika, your brother welcomes you with a big smile and half a hug, his other hand huddling a whisky glass to a roasted goat leg. The whole family helps you unpack the car, and you join in the feasting soon after short prayers from your granny. You learn that your other two sisters have not arrived therefore the family meeting has not taken off.
There is a sizeable crowd. Your mum had 5 girls and one boy. Your only brother, who is now a drunkard, unable to satisfy his wife who has since left with their three children.
Music blares and the night draws nigh. Drinks flow, served by your younger sisters and cousins. Dinner is served to the already red eyed crowd. You feel sleepy and you turn yourself and kids into your brother’s house, living your hubby making merry with the crowd.
Mumia is dosing on and off as the bus speeds on the carpeted Kisumu Busia road. He has not had a proper meal since yesterday and has phoned mummy to prepare some food for them. On arrival approaching midnight, they are welcomed with tea, chicken and Ugali. They quickly feed and off to bed. He has spent his Good Friday on the road.
The Saturday after Good Friday, referred to as Holy Saturday is the beginning of the observance of Easter Sunday. Families bond and in some cases go to church.
You and some of your sisters woke up early to prepare breakfast, goat soup, tea and mandazis. There is some meat and drink left over from yesterday and whoever is hungied and wants to remove lock can have what they want. You got time to catch up with sisters and eventually at 10, everyone else is up, and the family meeting is called to order where various issues ranging from medical assistance for aging parents and a Chama for the family is discussed. The meeting is punctuated by lunch and occasional usual wrangling between elder unties, your sister wants to bring for you but you are not in the mood, everything goes well.
Saturday is short for Mumia, with visits from neighbors and relatives. His wife and mum are cooking tea continuously for the visitors. By afternoon he has given out handouts to nearly everyone and is left with just his family’s fare back to Nairobi and therefore decides to take a walk to the neighboring village to say hi to his old friends and to escape handing out his life.
Sunday is special, elaborate masses and sermons are held to celebrate Jesus Christ’s crucifixion and subsequent resurrection. The bible notes that he resurrected three days later, however, most churches combine the Sunday mass to climax the whole process to allow faithful relax with family and travel back to work on Monday.
You decide you are not going church but will have a family afternoon evening out at the Rhino hotel in town listening to cool gospel and country music. Grandfather has kindly agreed to pay for everyone. This is a treat for grandma and she enjoys it swaying to the lyrics sometimes dragging her grandchildren around. After this dinner everyone is at liberty to leave.
Mumia is seated on the wooden bench at the front row of the church with his family. Hymn book and bible in hand. His father is not in church, he woke up to drink at the local brewer. He has been drinking since Friday and Mumia has not been able to have a conversation with him. His mum pokes his rib and points at the offertory basket. He did not make change while coming to church today. He quickly asks the wife for loose change and luckily, she has some in her purse, which is then shared between all, and singing of the offertory song I surrender all in key Dmajor continues.
After church, he arranges his family to travel. But because the fare is still high, he decides to leave his wife and the non-school going kids, he will send them fare later to join him in Nairobi again. Later that evening, he is on the night bus with his eldest son, bound for Nairobi.
Ooops! you feel fat. You forgot about your diet and you enjoyed yourself. The roasted goat meat was excellent and you could not help enjoying it, occasionally between drinks, devouring even the fatty parts around the joints. But what the heck, it was Easter. There is gym and there is www.malishobora.co.ke/ to supply you with the organic food ingredients that you need to manage those extra calories.