A Night of Carol with the Neighbours – A Christmas in Zimbabwe

December 27, 2021

What makes Christmas tick? Is it the Christmas spirit, food, family jokes or the quiet day you get because you were forgotten while travel plans were made? Reminisce with nostalgia as seven Nigerians share their favourite Christmas memories with Zikoko; the places and people that shaped their love for the season.

One constant thing in my family were the presents on Christmas day. My mum was very big on it while we lived in Zimbabwe, but moving back to Nigeria eventually changed the tradition. 

My family lived in Harare, the capital city of Zimbabwe for nine years. December was between fall and autumn, so Christmas there was sunny and slightly chilly too. Leaves would fall off blooming trees, but not enough to create heaps by the roadside. Living in Harare felt like being in the American neighbourhoods you see in movies; rows of similar houses with picket white fences, and bright green grass on the lawns. It was quiet, peaceful and our neighbours were super friendly. In only three months of moving in, I grew fond of their two kids. We spent some weekends having sleepovers at their home or having lunch by our poolside. During the Christmas holidays, this connection was multiplied by ten. 

Our first Christmas in Harare was without my dad. He had to leave for work, so It was just me and my mum for the day. It had been nine months of being in Harare, so we were close enough to the neighbours to invite them over for a Carol service in the evening. They were the closest thing we had to an extended family in Zimbabwe, so it was better than being home alone. 

It started off as a chilly and gloomy morning, so I was under the duvet watching movies and eating some biscuits I had taken from my dad’s snack box. The staff handled the cleaning and cooking for the day, so all I had to do was lay in bed and fill up on baked goodies. The help brought in breakfast at 10 a.m.: a plate of toast and scrambled eggs.  I eventually rolled out of bed, put my braids into a bun and jumped into the shower for a warm bath. Then I put on a pair of jeans, threw on a cardigan and ran down the stairs to help set up in the backyard.

Our first Christmas in Harare was without my dad. He had to leave for work, so It was just me and my mum for the day. It had been nine months of being in Harare, so we were close enough to the neighbours to invite them for a Carol service in the evening. They were the closest thing we had to an extended family in Zimbabwe, so it was better than being home alone. 

It started off as a chilly and gloomy morning, so I was under the duvet watching movies and eating some biscuits I had taken from my dad’s snack box. The staff handled the cleaning and cooking for the day, so all I had to do was lay in bed and fill up on baked goodies. The help brought in breakfast at 10 a.m.: a plate of toast and scrambled eggs.  When I was done, I eventually rolled out of bed, put my braids into a bun and jumped into the shower for a warm bath. Then I put on a pair of jeans, threw on a cardigan and ran down the stairs to help my mum set up in the backyard.

It was a minimalist setup: lights draped over the branches of the avocado trees outside, mats spread out in a circle underneath with cushions and pillows piled on top of each other. My mum also set up a projector to show the lyrics of the songs for the evening on the wall facing us.

Our neighbours arrived later with a bottle of white wine and a box of cupcakes drizzled with chocolate sauce. The night began with a game of charades. I can still picture my mum making the funniest gestures for what in her words, was the description of a horse. After about two rounds of losing to the neighbours, we set up the projector to sing. 

The line-up for the night was: Joy to the World, Away in a Manger, the First Noel and Silent Night. We sounded terrible and off tune, singing along to the lyrics, but I loved it. Our parents had wine while we had cans of Maltina served in between each set. The best part was having my mum get up to sing Silent Night while we all watched. I still think it was the wine, because she was usually quite conservative. 

The night ended with a feast of rice, chicken and salad finding their way into our stomachs. There was laughter and chatter into the rest of the night. We spent the last few days of the holiday in between game nights at their house and a trip to Victoria falls for the New year together. Even with just our neighbours, it didn’t feel like Christmas away from family back in Zimbabwe. 

When we moved back to Nigeria, I missed the connected feeling I felt in Zimbabwe.  There was food, family visits and getting treats, but it lacked the quiet intimacy of Harare . I hope I get to take my kids to experience Zimbabwe all over again with my own family. Christmas was such a beautiful time there.

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