Michael and I were reminiscing, a few weeks before Christmas, about Carols by Candlelight in Australia. When we are here, we always miss this quintessential Australian Christmas experience in Uganda:
Warm summer nights where the sun insists on staying up late
People from all walks of life flocking to reserve their place at the park
Picnic rugs covering the grass, eskys packed full of treats and drinks
B-grade celebrities on stage, bantering
Parents anxiously watching their young children’s budding pyromania as they play with candles
Australian out-of-tune accents belting out well-known Christmas songs
At first we assumed that the concept of singing carols, outside, by candlelight, was some kind of universal phenomena.
In hindsight – since the entire northern hemisphere is in the middle of winter at Christmas time – this could not be the case. It turns out it is a uniquely Australian tradition, that started in the 1920s.
So this year, we decided to put on such an event at our home.
We invited a combination of Ugandan friends, expat friends from all over the world, and some MH staff. We provided food (and others brought food as well!), I made Christmas biscuits, we had a big camp fire, and there were candles for everyone. Instead of BYO picnic rugs, people were asked to bring the Ugandan equivalent, woven mats. About 30 people turned up.
Michael, together with our talented friend (and MH staff member) William, played guitar and sang.
And it was lovely.
There is something about singing carols under the stars with a group of people that makes me feel soft inside. Emotional. Dreamy.
This feeling of course, was slightly impeded by the act of chasing the twins around near an open fire…until they went to bed.
Towards the end of the night, Michael sang and played ‘Aussie jingle bells’. It’s corny, and ‘over-the-top’ Australian, and not normally my thing.
I loved it.
It was simultaneously the cause of, and a salve for, my homesickness.
Being so far from home at this time of a year is hard. I miss our wider family. And as much as Australian Christmas tradition has become tangled up with consumerism and expensive presents and stress and all that other stuff….
Having a little bit of Australian tradition in Africa this time of year was exactly what I needed.