Five of my fondest Christmas memories from 90s Kampala

(Craft It’s new foreign correspondent in Kampala)

#1. The real trees
I grew up next to General Adirisi Mustafa’s home in Arua.

His house, a mansion with a massive compound half the size of a football pitch, had a chain-link fence with a cushion of Christmas trees. General allowed us to cut one tree every year during Christmas season.

I would carry the panga and watch my cousins, all high schoolers, bring down a tree.

We dragged this to our veranda, sat it in a multi-coloured paint tin that we stuffed with soil and placed in the corner of our living room.

It smelled fresh and festive.

#2. Christmas tree decorations
When the tree was up, we used every available material to decorate it.

Toilet paper was a key part of our decoration. We always used the tissues off this tree to wipe our backsides in the New Year — I looked forward to this, Christmas tree toilet paper was the real thing.

We also stuck patches of cotton and blew up balloons in trillions of colours, we hung them up to the tree using white knitting thread. We completed the look with a twirl of Christmas lights around our tree.

I’d step back and watch our handiwork.

#3. The cards
Oh, the days when people sent cards.

We received Christmas cards with words scribbled in blue or black ink, of people sharing their affection and best wishes for us. We sent out cards, too.

Most cards read, “Merry Christmas and Happy New Year”.

I was the kid in the house who opened every card, looked at every word, and corrected any error.

Some spoke of authentic friendship and real goodwill from the senders.

I would stand on a wooden stool and put the cards up on our tree. I fell off once but this didn’t deter me.

#4. Family Kodak moments
On the morning of Christmas Day, we would brush our teeth with Colgate, have tea and Boflo bread spread with Blue Band and wear our new clothes, still carrying the smell of newness.

A camera man – riding on a Hero bicycle, with his big black camera hanging from his neck – would come home.

We would pose as a family and everyone on their own, to “Say Cheese”.

Camera guy would flick his static memory recorder in all positions; kneeling, standing, squatting, hanging by his ankles on the door frame…

Sadly, sometimes the pictures came out “burnt”.

#5. The tree burns
On New Year’s day, because we didn’t have a fireworks experience, we created our own.

We brought down the Christmas tree, wilted at this point – balloons deflated, toilet paper taken off, cards placed in the bookshelf and lights turned off.

We pulled it to the roadside and set it ablaze.

It burnt with a minty smell, the smell of a New Year, with smoke of the old rising to the sky and flickers of light flying about.

It was a happy new year.

And we waited for another tree from General Mustafa’s fence that December.

Tuape blogs at


We’re taking a Christmas break. We’ll resume our regular posting schedule in the New Year, on January 8, Inshallah.

Let’s catch up on socio media til then.

– Bett on Instagram: Craft It
– And Facebook (because why the hell not?): Craft It, Made by Hand
– Mike on Instagram as well: Mike Muthaka
– Tuape on his blog (I WhatsApped him about opening an IG account and he said he’s made it a 2018 resolution. I didn’t quite get what that meant, hehhe, the resolution part. Guess it’s a Ugandan thing, aye?):

Happy Holidays, Good People!

Craft It Christmas
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