For a lot of women, Christmas is just hard toil

Whether the celebration is magical or not rests squarely on women who work tirelessly to ensure families and guests are happy.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

Whether the celebration is magical or not rests squarely on women who work tirelessly to ensure families and guests are happy

As you read this, I will be at my in-laws’ probably peeling potatoes for the mukimo that will be served with the mbuzi choma we will have later in the day.

Or perhaps I will be bent over wood fire trying to keep the fire going as I choke on the acrid smoke from the wood, my eyes watering profusely as my poor nose tingles in response to the bitter smoke.

Afterwards, as my aging back creaks in protest, I will help wash a mountain of dishes, sweep and mop the floor. By that time, it will be late evening, and only then will I, and the few other unfortunate females in the house, finally ‘relax’ and get to eat a proper meal.

But I used the word relax for lack of a better word because once in a while, I will be expected to get up to heat some food for a hungry child or a visitor, (read gate crasher) - my in-laws are people persons, therefore we get lots of ‘gate-crashers’ during such occasions. I have said before that I am a light sleeper, but every Christmas day, for over 10 years now, when my head touches the pillow, I sleep like the dead, a welcome price for exhaustion.

Before I go on, though this might come across as whining, it is far from it. I know how fortunate I am to have a family to spend this day with at a time when many extended families are no longer as close as they were. So yes, in spite of the hard work that is my Christmas, I have a lot to be grateful for.

That out of the way, Christmas is not a woman’s holiday, at least not here in Kenya. I agree with fellow writer, Karimi Gatimi, that on this day, we get the short end of the stick, the raw deal.

As the men sit under a tree eating roast meat and drinking beer, we women slave it out in hot kitchens, lighting fires, chopping and dicing, boiling, frying and stewing. Food that we will serve to men already with toothpicks in their mouth since they will have feasted on part of the meat beforehand.

After that we will collect the dirty dishes as we serve them water and tea. Before this, we will have fed the children, in between soothing the irritable ones and refereeing the bickering ones. Next year, I will take Karimi’s advice and book a girls’ Christmas in February, where I will leave baba watoto with the children for a few days to try and forget the slavery I was subjected to, today.

So, yes, I am really envious of you, dear reader, because as I pound this mukimo, sweating with exertion, arms aching, you are sprawled on a sun lounger under an umbrella by the beach or poolside, sipping an exotic cocktail or chilled juice.

I imagine that around 6pm, you and your family will stroll back to your room, take a cool shower then head to the hotel’s restaurant where you will partake of a sumptuous buffet that you did not lift a finger to prepare. Filled to the brim with rich food an hour or so later, you will stroll back to your ventilated room, having left your empty plates on the table to be washed and scrubbed by someone else.

Now that is the Christmas of my dreams. But, as we say here in Kenya, utarudi tu…

The writer is editor, Society and Magazines, Daily Nation. Email: cnjunge@