CHRISTMAS IN KALAPATA
KALAPATA village, location
Kalapata is a village located in the Eastern district of Pallisa in Uganda. I can proudly say it is one like no other. Basing on its location in the eastern low lands of Uganda, it is characterized by several wetlands and swamps. This has made the growing of rice and fish farming possible. The land near the wetland is called “mwiga” in Lugwere one of the native languages, as one moves away from the wetland the soil texture and nature change. The land away from the wetland is called “Kitera”.
It is prestigious to have a chunk of land near the stream (mwiga) and one far from the stream (kitera). Crops that are grown in the wetlands like rice are specific to that area and those like Cassava are specialized to the kitera.
I was raised in Kalapata, a place that I have come to appreciate more after I have grown up. Though this is not where my parents originate, they made a home that has become home.
I look back to my teenage self, I loathed this Village then. My younger self most likely will not have written an article about Kalapata. I think my younger self is looking at me and thinking, “…..What’s gotten into her? And then she would giggle and say ouch she must have lost it already”.
My Childhood Perception of Christmas
As a little girl, all I had to do was to wait for my new white ‘tantala’ dress every Christmas and follow my parents to church and take pictures with them after mass and then eat everything they gave me. I must say at that age most of us felt entitled to these white dresses, in addition to a white hat. Now that I think about it we spent a lot of time turning around to see how big your dress gets. At church we were fighting over the different things that attracted our sight, I must say it was a total distraction altogether. At that time I was extremely self-centred to notice what goes around me.
Later I came to understand that Christmas for many in Kalapata is the time they get to have plenty. A brief description of the social class of the people in Kalapata is as follows. The majority of the people in Kalapata are farmers who grow crops like rice, cotton, groundnuts, maize and many others.
A few years ago, Cotton used to be the Christmas crop of the people in Kalapata. Money from selling Cotton was to take care of the festive season needs. Cotton is harvested starting from November to December. After the sale of Cotton women and children are seen rushing to the market on Tuesday which is the market day.
They come back by midday happy with new clothes; the women often purchase a new Gomesi material which they take to the tailor for sewing. One of the busiest professions around this time is a tailor. Different people drop off their clothes as early as November. In Kalapata there is a prominent tailor where most people drop off their clothes. For a long time, she sewed her home until young girls in the village got skilled as well and got into tailoring. She was later forced to get a spot at the trading centre to compete favourably.
A growing understanding of kalapata
Kalapata has got a few rich families by our standards. I prefer to refer to them as the conglomerates of the village; they seem to have a lot of wealth compared to anyone else. In this class, these people have very many of their relatives not based in the village but in major cities of Uganda. They mostly drive back to the village for the festivities and they become the talk of the village. What have they brought? what car did they come in? And so on.
These conversations are carried around by women who move from one garden to the next to offer labour in mostly weeding. Other than the conglomerates of the village we have civil servants. Let us look at the civil servants in detail this is where I belong.
I may say the civil servant families are the most dominant in Kalapata. In this class, we have the teachers the nurses the government officials at the district, the accountants. These are the families that have gone to school and are employed, they go to their jobs every day and come back home and participate in farming as well. They rise above the normal common people that did not go to school and they are their biggest employers.
These people have managed to educate and send their children to schools both within and outside the district. The parents of these children feel proud to walk around with their school-going children. They love the village but want something better outside. Basing on their different professions they will still be addressed by those different titles by the other people. Many other people want to associate with these people. But it is a trend for the children of the civil servants to identify with each other.
The festive season is for these people to find out who might be doing much better than them. Christmas to this class is comparing notes and finding out who is doing much better than the other. We have the business people in another class but that is enough about the classes. Otherwise, I will have to tell you about those who practise witchcraft and scare the hell out of everyone in the village.
The Christmas Food and Festivities Today
The Christmas tradition in Kalapata as I know it as of today since I am no longer overly self-centred is all about food and eating like everywhere else. What makes it interesting is how it is done. Most families now plan for Christmas food in early January. By food, I mean meat. Both men and women join a group or Sacco as early to save for the meat that they will consume at Christmas time.
To become a member of a particular Sacco you must pay the subscription fee which is a certain fee. The families that think they need more meat subscribe twice or even three times. The leaders are selected these mostly include the chairperson, the sectary and the treasurer.
The most important role is that of the treasurer because there are so many stories of people who run off with people’s money. In the year this money is grown by the members borrowing and paying back with a certain interest percentage. The members then agree on the month in which they will purchase the animal.
This is to avoid the high costs of animals in the last month of Christmas. a youthful good looking cow is purchased in July and grazed by either a willing member or they hire a herds boy. The role of the herds’ boy is to make sure this cow or bull is fattened well and looks juicy enough. The members ensure that their animal grows well and becomes heavy by the 24th day of December. Then the members gather at the chairperson’s home for the slaughter. These gather and wait for the appointment time made by the designated official Village slaughterman.
cOMMUNIAL sHARING OF THE MEAT
To control the theft of animals in the villages a slaughterman is appointed to account for the number of animals that get slaughter in a day. When the slaughter has been made the slaughter is made off with the tail of the cow. And the herds’ boy is rewarded with the legs of the cow in appreciation for his work. The head is often sold to a member or anyone to make the beginning capital for the next year, as the slaughter is going on the liver and kidney is taken out and fried for the members to enjoy as they wait for their meat to be ready.
The process of dividing the meat is done in the presence of the members who observe to avoid arguments. The meat is measured to ascertain the number of kilograms that are divided amongst the members. It is then decided how many kilograms each member will carry to their home, of course, a well-fattened cow produces more kilograms.
Then the meat is cut and divided part by part, every member must get at least a kilogram from every particular part of the cow, this is repeated until the meat is fully divided. Once this is done, numbers are written on a piece of paper and attached to the different heaps of meat.
Then after other papers are cast with the same numbers and each member picks an enclosed number. Each member takes the heap of meat to which his or her number corresponds. This is done to avoid doubts and any other suspicions that could arise. Since most of the groups have a limit of 10 members each of them walks away with 20kgs of meat or 40kgs if they subscribed twice.
All I have to say about the above process is the word amazing and welcome to Kalapata. Other than the fact that 24th is a well-known meat day, the 23rd day of December in Kalapata is the day pigs are slaughtered. It is the day festive day of pork on this day people buy and enjoy meat in their families.
The pork is eaten on the day before the meat festivities begin. It is not uncommon to hear a neighbour who suffered from diarrhoea the whole night from overeating or from being mean and failure to share.
The young women and young teenage girls now perm or burn their hair to make it shiny and soft. After the process of hair softening, most girls dye the hair so that it is purely black. Another addition is glitter which is mostly dropped in the hair and face slightly.
This makes the young teenage girls to sparkle. I must say that in Kalapata the tradition of having Christmas trees and decorating does not exist. But fortunately, we have got the living and moving young girls who go around with glitter shining bright with very lovely faces.
These are the young and vibrant Christmas trees. The church session is always fun too, it is a time to appreciate the efforts that both young and people make to look extra great on that day. As soon as they finish their lunch they change into happening clothing and rush to the trading centre to participate in fun activities. This is the time the young girls and boys to hook up as well. Activities like films, football, comedy, music and dance and other shows.
Since people in Kalapata hardly have fridges, meat is preserved by steaming, and then it is smoked on low heat until it is dry. I can say this is the most enjoyable moment. The meat gets chewy and crunchy to eat. Christmas in Kalapata ends at the moment that when the roasted dry meat gets finished.
And this is Christmas in Kalapata.