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Holidays: Family, Food & Reflection

Have you ever thought about what the holidays are like in Tanzania?


Einoth (right) with her family at the holidays.

December is the long-awaited holiday for many countries in the Southern Hemisphere and that is especially true for us in Tanzania. It is the time when students have a long break, return home, and have reunions with members of their extended family. While June is another long school holiday, the December holiday is seen as special and loved by many people due to the Christmas and New Year’s celebrations. When December comes, students in schools all over Tanzania become so eager to get back home for their holiday.


In December, everything seems to bloom: trees, flowers, and grass.  The climate is usually so lovely – a little sun and rain which makes the air so clean and fresh. The farmers become happier and are busy planting their farms, getting more milk from cows and goats. Every animal seems to rejoice as they eat green grasses and have plenty of water to drink.


It is during the December holiday that most of the people who have moved to towns or cities pay a visit to their home towns or villages. It is the time when children are taken to the villages to greet their grandparents.  Some people use this holiday as a time for all the clan members to meet together and discuss matters concerning their clan and plan for the next year.


The famously crowded Ubungo bus station in Dar es Salaam.

A common tribe in the Kilimanjaro region known as Chaga, or Mangi, is especially well known for its tradition of tribe members flocking back to their Chaga land in the northern part of Tanzania at the end of each year.  The Chaga people are believed to have scattered all over Tanzania due to their unique character of being business people.  They come from far and wide to travel home during the December holiday – and the buses are packed!  There is a saying that people have formulated due to this habit: “Mangi people are going home for census.”  Since Chaga people are always home in December, people say they go home to be counted, to know how many there are now, how many have passed away and how many have been newly born.


What do AfricAid’s Kisa Scholars enjoy doing in their free time over the holidays?  Just like students all over the world… sleeping in their own beds, eating home cooked meals and having fun with their friends.  Watch this really fun video to them describe what they are looking forward to during break!


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The long break is also time when Scholars learn from each other and are industrious and productive, working with their families.


Sarah, a Year One Kisa Scholar from Mringa Secondary School explains why she loves the December holiday: “The holiday gives me ample time to relax from schooling. It also gives me room to make evaluations and assessments for what I have done for the whole year and plan for the next year. It is a time to meet my family and friends who I have not seen for the whole year. I interact with students from other schools and share different materials on what we learned at our schools. This helps us to gain and expand knowledge.”  Sarah adds (and this will sound familiar to anyone who has a child away at school), “Holidays mean a lot to me. Other than meeting my family members, what I enjoy the most is changing my diet from school food, which I don’t really like to home stuffs. Oohh!!! I really like that!!!”


Another Kisa Scholar from Mringa, Asia, says, “December is the month where my society as well as my family celebrate the successes we have attained throughout the year and congratulate each other. It is the time when we sit with our mother to receive counseling, advice, and encouragement to work hard and do well in whatever we do.” She continues, “We use this chance as a family to make some profit from our art of hair styling.  During December, we get many customers because most people want to appear good with different hair styles for the Christmas and New Year’s celebrations. It is a great opportunity for us to make money.”


Einoth (2nd from right) celebrates the holiday in Tabora with some of her church friends.

Family, food and reflection seems to be the common thread for most people during the holidays, no matter where they come from. Jess Littman, Director of Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning, reflects on her holidays at home in the US: “Some holidays are more meaningful than others. Thanksgiving is the most meaningful to me because it is a time to celebrate with the family. Some religious holidays are also meaningful because I enjoy carrying on the tradition of my ancestors. My family usually cooks a large meal, eats together and discusses the meaning of that particular holiday.”


My Own Special Holiday Memory


Einoth and her cousin Faraja proudly wearing Maasai dress.

I have my own very special holiday story from almost ten years ago. My family and I had been living in Tabora, where my sister and I grew up.  In 2009, when I was in Form 2 (Grade 8), my father moved to Simanjiro in Manyara for work, and we remained in Tabora with our mother.  Just after I finished my Form 2 national exams, my sister, mother, and I traveled to Simanjiro to spend our holiday with our father.  Our father took us deep into the interior of the Maasai steppes.  It was my first time being at this place, and it was just awesome.  We spent time visiting many Maasai families and received a great welcome from each family.


But, what made that trip particularly special was that I finally learned the meaning of my own name, Einoth, and came to realize its value.  Einoth is a Maasai name, but my father never told me the meaning of it, no matter how many times I asked.


I was so surprised when we arrived at a Maasai home and introduced ourselves.  I said “My name is Einoth,” and they all exclaimed in their Maasai accent, “Wooooow Eraaaa Einoth.


And then, all the children heard that my name was Einoth and they ran to me so animated, chanting, “Einoth, Einoth, Einoth!”


I was left puzzled. What does all this mean? Why are they so excited?


Everyone really wanted to talk to me and tell me the meaning of my name, but unfortunately, we could not understand each other.  I could not speak the Maasai language, though I am a Maasai, and they could also not speak proper Swahili.


Finally, I found out Einoth means:  A real child of that father.


Einoth (left) and her cousins in Maasai dress at the holidays.

Maasai people believe that a married man may have many children with his wife, but some may not actually be his own children. When they feel it and have no doubt over the child, they then say “Eraaa Einoth,” meaning that “surely this is my own blood, my real child.” Usually, the name is given to the female child who is liked so much by her father, and generally when the daughter resembles the father.  Comparably, the male child is given the name “Oinoth.”  This was such a wonderful and memorable holiday because I got to learn about myself and my heritage.


Holidays are a perfect time for everyone to refresh, enjoy, make self-evaluations, and plan for the future. AfricAid is closing its office in early December until just after the New Year, and many of our colleagues will scatter all around the countryside, partaking in their own family traditions. We wish happy holidays to everyone!


Contributed by: Einoth Justine, Kisa Mentor