Christmas around the world is celebrated in one single location in Zanzibar - in Fumba Town. We asked three families how they spend the festive days.
„We are Hindus and we love Christmas“
Reynita, Alan and Ayana, 7
“We come from Mauritius, a very multicultural country just like Zanzibar, and we celebrate everything there. Any public holiday, of any religion or culture, is an excuse to celebrate! I also do Ramadan, I have fastened two times already. My husband Alan, the master chef, came to Zanzibar in 2009, I joined him a year later; we are married 12 years. Originally we are Tamil Hindus.
X-Mas for us is all about family time, especially with our daughter Ayana – and cooking. My husband is the expert, of course, but with me me running a successful catering firm from my house here in Fumba, we all do our part. Last year, for the first time we even had a tree. In Zanzibar you have to be very creative with decoration so I just painted some branches white, and it looked pretty. Whenever I see something small and cute and shiny I collect it for the occasion. As soon I notice the red Flame Trees blossoming, I know it’s that time of the year again. We give our presents on Christmas’ eve at midnight; my parents used to place them next to us kids on our bedside table and we would wake up to them.
In Mauritius we are more than ten brothers and sisters, here in Fumba it’s just our small family. We do barbecue, “Roti poule”, a roasted chicken with oyster sauce and gratin (see recipe). There is one Muslim friend and colleague of my husband who traditionally comes to join us every Christmas – otherwise he would be all on his known, and we wouldn’t want that on such a day, so we invite him, and we are all happy together.”
“Give a little, take a little”
Etienne, Danielle, Sia, 7 and Evan, 2
“Last year was our first Christmas in Fumba Town. We had even two trees, one inside, one outside, but they were only wooden triangles, really. Coming from South Africa we have learnt to do without a proper, natural tree, we are in the midst of summer after all! But I do have lots of decoration, stacked away in boxes, and I always got for a colour scheme and theme; last year it was blue and gold. And certainly we never celebrate without lights to get into the spirit of Christmas. We were the only ones in Fumba having the whole house shining last year, the white roof looking like covered in snow, this time I want to put lights in the lemon tree in our front yard, too. Let’s see what happens, hopefully we have started a trend!
Santa comes early with us, we give our presents before dinner on Christmas’ eve and we have a special ritual since years: The children prepare a donation box with some toys and clothes, they have outgrown, for other children in need. After all, Christmas is not about receiving but about giving. For dinner will have a leg of lamb with veggies, potatoes and pumpkin – and a peppermint crisp tart, the same as every year! On boxing day will have friends over - it usually ends up with everybody plunging in the pool. Merry Christmas!”
“Coming home for X-Mas”
Kenneth, Charity, Ty, 14 and Amani, 7
“Coming for home for X-Mas is actually our song. We almost always travel to spend the holidays with all our relatives from four generations. We rotate the clan festivities every here, getting together each time in a different house. Planning starts usually as early as September, on the phone we’ll discuss each and every detail. What kind of braai shall we have, as we call our grill, which beer? Our families live spread out all over the world from Canada to Ivory Coast, and when we get together we all sleep in, nobody stays in a hotel. We celebrate midnight church service together. We place mattresses on the floor and take power naps, we go on until New Year’s Eve.
But last year, because of corona, and our move from Malawi to Zanzibar, we had to do it differently. We still felt the itch to travel and took the family to a hotel in Paje. Everybody loved it, although we didn’t carry any presents. Our presence, our being together, was each other’s present. Our son Ty joined from his boarding school in Arusha.
Christmas is a time of deep reflection for us. What good have I done, what could have been better? What can I be thankful for? We actually ask ourselves these questions. Because who, if not family, could give you guidance? And this year? We might just stay in Fumba Town, we might travel. But surely will be together.”