Christmas in Iringa

Dear Friends,

Christmastide  turned out to be  a several tier event with each layer adding to our emergence into the spirit of the holiday, diverting feelings of aloneness and deprivation that can hover over travelers during the season where at  home or   with kith and kin seems the right place.

Two Nights Before:

We attended a Fellowship caroling event followed by a potluck dinner .It was interesting to note that while our group was made up of several nationalities, English, Danish, South African and a few Americans, the carols were, for the most part ,the traditional ones that we are used to singing.  We enjoyed  watching  the  endearing Danish tradition of lighting candles by the children to symbolize the light that the Christmas child brought to the world.

Danish Carol Lighting Tradition

Danish Carol Lighting Tradition

Many of the  people at the dinner following shared  descriptions of their reasons and logistics for  relocation to Tanzania   adding  to the stories of other expatriates which we have been gathering as we go. Some of these I would like to share with you in another blog entry. Suffice it to observe at present that their presence here adds an interesting dimension to an already remarkable homeland culture.

The Night Before :

We had a welcome taste of American our roots and a number of laughs with a Lutheran Minister, his wife and their extended family who arrived in time to celebrate the holiday. The group is a for real, an American, stereotypical,  eclectic one,  comprised of  the Minister and his wife from Mn , their daughter and son in law and three children, and the son in law’s parents from NJ. Happily the Minister and his wife will be staying on for four months, living in the unit below us. The others leave in two weeks after a three day safari.

We joined them for dinner at The Lutheran Center, which is close to our apartment building. Everyone had something interesting or humorous to share. Gary, the minister and his wife Carol, talked about their involvement in Tanzanian life. Their daughter, Jennifer,  told us about a number of their American friends doing creative work in Africa. One example that caught our imagination was a young couple coming to form an NGO dedicated  to raising awareness of the  Masaii regarding  how their practice of  killing lions in revenge for attacks on their livestock may damage the local economy by diminishing the tourist trade as well as endanger   the cycle of nature by significantly interrupting it..

Mike, the son in law, a graduate of Notre Dame  and a portfolio manger gave us some inside scoop on The Fighting Irish , (he had been the team manager during his student years during Lou Holtz’s time), and some US business perspective.

His mother told a funny story about being on a tour with a group led by a religious denomination whose name I remember not. The tour director asked her about her origins. She replied that she was Irish Catholic from NJ. Later he introduced her as Jewish from NY. That made us all chuckle as we, like the tour director, could intuit the connection.

His father, who is Italian, entertained us with recounting of a recent incident in which  one of  the youngsters from the extended family called him to ask if he would go beat up some kids that were harassing him at school, implying that the youngster’s visual impression of him evoked images from The Sopranos.

The two pre teen boys could be spotted wrestling at every presenting opportunity while the little girl stayed sweetly on her mother’s lap.

Ah, how sweet the sights and sounds of home when far from its shores. Vive la American habits and diversity!!

Christmas Day: A Tanzanian Church Experience:

Blog Altar

We attended a traditional Christmas  mass at the Catholic Cathedral. The Bishop was the Presider, assisted by two priests, six altar boys and several nuns. The altar and crèche were most attractive in their Blog Crecheseasonal adornments, and the Choir was mesmerizing in their rendition of Tanzanian hymns and traditional Christmas music.

Hearing Hark The Herald Angel Sing, Come let us Adore him, Oh Little Town of Bethlehem and others interlaced with the rhythm of African drumbeat  captivated us so that the three hours we were there seemed not one minute too long .

Blog Choir

The Church was packed as it is every Sunday at every mass giving us the impression that unlike in the US and Europe, church attendance ,by both genders,  is not on the wane. One has to be careful not to be seriously distracted from the service by the beauty of the African garb on both women and children. 

One well dressed Church goer

One well dressed Church goer



Tanzanians celebrate Noel as they do other holidays; they get together with family and friends to enjoy food, camaraderie,  and relaxation. There a few decorations at home and gift giving is not largely practiced.

We were treated to a typical yuletide experience  later in the day by our Tanzanian family, our grandson, Crispin’s father, brothers, sister and her two children. They provided a delicious spread which I picture below with the dish covers on because I foolishly  did not take one with them off. (I entertain delusions of  getting  better).The fish, chicken, chips, rice , vegetables and fruit  were expertly prepared and competed most favorably with any meal we have had here to date.

Like in many homes across The Country, the kids played quietly while adult conversation turned  to  familial, country, cultural, worldly happenings and concerns  making  the time fly and leaving  the desire for more when the day was  over.  For our part, we introduced the kids to Santa, and they liked him.

On a personal note, Crispin wrote an email message greeting to our gathering. . It and his good news that he had made the Dean’s list this first semester at Bucknell was much appreciated  and applauded by all.

Hope your day, whether you celebrate Christmas or not, was merry as well.

Pictures below show Grayson opening his gift, one little party goer, Rahma, getting a bath to prepare for the event,Tom holding Rahma with Venance looking on , Winnie and Rahim at table, and our delicious feast.

Grayson reading note from Santa

Grayson reading note from Santa

Rahma getting ready to party.

Rahma getting ready to party.

Tom, 10 with Rahma, 2

Tom, 10 with Rahma, 2 and Venance

Winnie with Rahim, 2

Winnie with Rahim, 2

Our delicious meal

Our delicious meal

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2 Responses to Christmas in Iringa

  1. Mary Dionne, Sarasota, FL says:

    I am in total awe of your Tanzanian experience and attitude about being there. Selfishly I miss our Saturday golf where you could relay these times personally. Our best to you both for a Happy, Healthy New Year.

    Mary Dionne

  2. Thanks Betty for such an interesting report of your life in Africa-what an amazing experience it must be for you and Stan!!!

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