My Grandma, bless her soul, had a gift for storytelling. Every other Christmas, she’d gather us round and tell us what she said was the true story of Christmas, one stripped of all the glam added to the one we see on TV and read in books.
Long time ago, there lived a fairly rotund man, big of bone and big of heart. Everyone referred to him as Taata Kurisimasi. He had a long beard and was in the habit of giving generously. During the last few days of the year, particularly on the night of what is now referred to as Christmas Eve, he would go from house to house giving gifts to children who had been good all year. Grandma, who was but a little child back then, says she always got a gift. Taata Kurisimasi’s gifts would depend a lot on what the child’s desire was. Some got chocolate, others got Riham biscuits while others got Sim sim balls, Cool cool bar, safi and some even got the ultimate gift; Nyama bites. Much as many would have loved to get ice cream, it was not practical back then to transport it from place to place in the hot and dusty country Uganda was back then.
Because of the numbers, transporting the gifts called for ingenuity. Taata Kurisimasi, decked in red and white, was always a step ahead. He had a sleigh that was drawn by goats. The goats had names but I can only remember one; Goliath the green-nosed goat. In the sleigh, Taata Kurisimasi would put all the gifts and call the goats by name and they’d run a few meters and then fly. Grandma says that everyone knew Taata Kurisimasi’s goats could fly.
Sometimes, Taata would carry only one or two gifts because almost all the children had been bad during the year. Some had broken windows while playing kwepena, while others had taken sips of malwa/ajon while the elders weren’t looking.
I always wondered how the big-boned old man would drop the gifts for the children. Grandma says that he, having spent a good part of his formative years in Katwe, would pry open burglar proofing, get inside the house/hut (for huts back then had burglar proofing), drop the gift under the sink and leave.
Anyone who run into the bubbly Taata Kurisimasi testifies that the first words out of his mouth were always ‘Banange Banange Banange, Merry Chirstmasi!’. This story was picked up by a traveler, a bit of glam was added to it and the media took over. Merry Christmas