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Christmas in Tanzania

To help us wrap up the season of giving, Concilie Jules recalls some of her warmest early childhood memories from Tanzania and discusses how Christmas was celebrated among members of her community.  

As Concilie reflects on how Christmas was celebrated during her time in Tanzania, some of the first things that come to mind are how much time was spent on preparation, prayers and community gathering. 

“When it’s time for Christmas, especially for Christians, we take it very seriously,” Concilie says. “We’d take the whole month to celebrate, it’s a lot of preparation leading up to it for all ages,” she continues. 

In the weeks prior to Christmas, community leaders would gather and plan out different tasks for community members – decorations, food, gifts and much more.  

“We’d get ready for different programs, people who would be in charge of music concerts and actors for Christmas pageant to name a few, all these take lots of time to perfect,” she says.  

Divided roles for one outcome

It takes a community effort to have a successful outcome for the celebration. One way the community comes together is in sharing roles for each gender, marital status and different age groups.  

Concilie shares that the role for fathers is to “lead the event through planning and supporting everyone else.” Men are also in positions for “preaching, leading prayers and bible study.”  

“For children, they spend lots of time in prayers, studying the bible and practice singing praises,” she says.

“On the day of Christmas, they’d walk for hours going from church to church while waving flowers, singing and dancing throughout town to get to the desired destination,” Concilie continues.

For single young adults, their role is to act in the Christmas Pageant: “They’d come together and act out the story of Jesus’s birth. They are also responsible for the decorations, which consist of wrapping the walls with “Vitenge, an African print fabric.” 

A heavenly taste for all

While the role for the fathers is to feed the community with spiritual food through the word of God and prayers, the mothers’ role is to nourish everyone physically with food.  

“Food is a big deal for Christmas celebration because this is the one time in the whole year where we get to eat food we usually can’t afford to buy,” she continues.  

Some of the rare food that is served is rice, meat and Mukeke, a “popular dish that’s expensive and hard to get.” Mothers also serve and entertain.  

“When they serve us food, it’s not the usual way of serving, they’d all wear new matching Vitenge, and there’s singing and dancing involved,” Concilie says.  

Besides having food which most people don’t have the privilege to have over the year, Concilie shares that children also get new clothes, which is something they look forward to all year. 

The group effort from everyone in the community makes for a grand celebration. Concilie shares that on Christmas Eve, the people would stay at church to gather and pray all night.

The following day consists of children singing praises, young adults’ pageant and music concert, dads leading through prayers and moms nourishing everyone who attends.   

And all these hard work and preparation is for us to be reminded that “Jesus is born, and he is in heart.”  

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Kler Soe is the Communications Specialist at World Relief Quad Cities. She joined the team after graduating from St. Ambrose University in May of 2023 with a degree in Public Relations and Strategic Communication. As a refugee herself, she hopes to bring awareness to World Relief’s work through stories. 

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