Last year Erika, who had usually spent all her Christmas seasons at work and with her family, had the possibility to leave for holidays on Christmas time. She decided to fly again to Africa where she had travelled the previous spring. As she couldn’t find travel company from her friends, she found Tanja, another Finnish woman, through a Facebook group. Together they travelled from Finland to Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania and spent Christmas in a Duara-village in Makuyu, Kenya.
interview by salia from duara & PHOTOS BY erika
When planning their trip to Africa, Erika told Tanja that during her previous trip she had been in a Duara village in Tanzania, and would like to try another village in Kenya. “It was such a nice and easy way to get more familiar with the local culture”, Erika explains. Luckily Tanja wasn’t difficult to convince and she was also interested in the experience.
At first, the two women did not plan to stay in a Duara village for Christmas. Their schedules and travel plans were flexible and they decided to confirm bookings once they had arrived from Uganda to Kenya.
In Uganda the two travellers started planning where to spend Christmas – in a traditional hotel, or somewhere else? Staying with a local family in a village sounded like a good option, but the women were still hesitating because they were afraid of bothering the peace of the family by coming there for Christmas.
“It was such a nice and easy way to get more familiar with the local culture”
We asked Erika if they had other hesitations or fears about going to the village and spending Christmas with unknown people, but she said that the biggest worry was about bothering the family.
Her previous stay in Lembeni village, in 2018, had brought her only good memories, which she was hoping to get now as well.
Erika says she was worried that the family would host the travellers because of the incomes it brings, although they would prefer to spend holidays without foreigners. To reassure her mind, Erika decided to contact the Duara team and ask us whether it would be okay to go to the village for Christmas, or not. From our side, we contacted the local contact person to ask her opinion, and to check with the host families. Everybody assured that there was no problem.
Christmas without snow
It appeared that Christmas in Kenya and in the village of Makuyu was very different from Finland. Especially because there did not seem to be many traditions or particular specialties for Christmas. “The most visible way that showed something was going on, were the incredible traffic jams, which we had in both ways – entering and leaving the village”, Erika says.
“We saw maybe one or two Christmas trees in other accommodation places or some lights and simple decorations before arriving to the village, but in general it could be seen that Christmas was not at all as commercial as it is in Europe”.
Tanja had already celebrated Christmas many times abroad so for her it was not a big deal to have such a different Christmas in Makuyu. Erika, on the other hand, was away from Finland for Christmas for the first time. However, she did not get homesick or regret she was somewhere else. They had had a pre-christmas dinner with her family before she left to Africa, and she thinks that helped to cope with the missing family.
“Maybe the only thing which really felt strange, was the lack of snow and all that Christmas fuss we are used to in Finland”. Erika also thought that there will still be many Christmases coming, so it would not be a big deal to spend one holiday away from home.
Family makes it all
Although there were no specific Christmas traditions, one day the host family and the travellers went to the church, which felt as an important event for the whole village. Erika was also deeply marked about the fact that in Kenya, it really felt that Christmas is an occasion for the families to gather together. There was no need for other special things, as long as everybody could spend these few days of the year together.
And what comes to the hesitations of bothering the host family by intruding their Christmas peace, that appeared to be a totally unnecessary fear: “We were so welcomed there! Everybody was super nice to us, we were invited all day long to have tea with neighbours and everybody was so lovely that we did not feel bothering anyone at all!”
“In general it could be seen that Christmas was not at all as commercial as it is in Europe”.
Erika's first Christmas abroad, in a Duara village, was a wonderful experience which she would recommend to anyone. She would also be totally ready to spend Christmas again outside home in a different environment.
Next time she would, however, try to ask more questions about the local traditions and celebrations, in order to understand more what is important or what is not. She also reminds that if you have any hesitations before staying in an unusual place for Christmas, or other important celebrations, you can always ask, as she did by contacting the Duara team beforehand! That’s the best way to overcome any kind of reluctance.