In Uganda, Christmas is a time when families try and be with one another. Many people travel from cities, back to the villages where the main part of their family might live. (Although there are more whole big families now living in cities so they don’t have to travel!) This is often the only time large families will see each other all year, so it is very important.
People try to be home for Christmas Eve, so they can help with the Christmas preparations. Houses and churches are often decorated with colorful balloons, ribbons, paper decorations, flowers and green leaves. For a Christmas Tree, some people will have a Cyprus tree.
In some urban areas in Kampala, some stores like Game had started having fake snow outside them! And there might be a Santa in the stores as well.
In Uganda, Santa is called “Father Christmas.” His story is the same as in other parts of the world, and he looks very similar to the Santa Claus who visits children in North America and Europe, with a full white beard and a red velvet suit trimmed in white fur.
Carolers go from house to house singing traditional carols in English, but not forgetting the ever green Philly Lutaaya Christmas songs sung in Luganda, all joyous songs that describes the birth of Jesus.
It’s alot customary to give carolers small cash donations. On Christmas Day, the singers donate this money to the local church in the spirit of Christmas giving.
Uganda isn’t home to fir or pine trees, so those who choose to put up a tree usually decorate cypress trees.
Ornaments are the same that are familiar to North Americans and Europeans, including string lights, tinsel, and round glass or acrylic balls.
The Father Christmas tradition is more common in urban areas of Uganda, where many shopping malls have a Christmas Village where children can meet the elves and Father Christmas himself. In rural areas, Father Christmas is less well-known.
Many people, especially Christians, will go to a Midnight Church Service to celebrate Christmas. The service will have Christmas hymns, carols & songs; and often nativity plays (showing the Christmas Story), poems & dances.
After the service, people go home and party really starts – you might well not sleep that night! In cities, going carol singing is also becoming more popular.
Some people will also go to Church on Christmas morning (if you haven’t fallen asleep from partying all night!)
Popular Christmas foods include a barbecue which can be a goat, sheep, beef or chicken. This is eaten with rice and chapati flat bread. The big Christmas meal is called ‘nyama choma’. People often buy their own beer to drink and different tribes also have special dishes they make. If you live in a city you might have a western Christmas Cake, but these aren’t very common in rural areas.
Only small gifts are normally exchanged and sometimes food and gifts are provided by missionary organisations.
The day after Christmas, Boxing Day, is also a public holiday in Uganda. It’s another day of celebrating, seeing more friends and family (or sleeping!)
What do Ugandans give each other for Christmas?
Clothing is one of the most common Christmas gifts in Uganda. Both adults and children often receive new outfits as presents on Christmas Eve. Then, they show off their new clothes for the Christmas Day feast. Across Uganda, families often hire photographers to take group portraits of everyone dressed up in their holiday finery.
Although Ugandans don’t celebrate Thanksgiving, the American Black Friday shopping tradition has taken off in Uganda in recent years. In Kampala and some other areas, retailers unveil their holiday decorations and discount prices to attract shoppers on the Friday after the U.S. observes Thanksgiving. Nearly 40% of surveyed Ugandans said they bought a Christmas gift on Black Friday in the 3 recent years.