One of the adjustments to living in a foreign country is different holidays. There are 13 national holidays celebrated annually in Uganda. They are a conglomeration of patriotic and religious holidays with two days honoring the laborer and women thrown in for good measure. Because Ugandans are predominantly Christians and Muslims, each faith’s religious holidays are celebrated.
Earlier this month, the Muslim holiday of Eid was observed, essentially the equivalent of Christmas. Literally meaning ‘festival’ or ‘celebration,’ Eid is actually a pair of holidays. The first occurring in August, Eid al Fitr, is celebrated after the fasting month of Ramadan, and the other, Eid al Adha, is celebrated about two and a half months later and is a festival of sacrifice and pilgrimage to Mecca in Saudi Arabia. Each celebration focuses on time with family and friends. Everyone invites others to their homes for snacks and munchies, and then they go to someone else’s house to do the same.
Sounds kind of like Thanksgiving to me.
Uganda does not have a day set aside for a Thanksgiving holiday like the United States and Canada. Since this is a tropical equatorial area, there really isn’t any specific ‘harvest’ time. Something always seems to be in season and is getting harvested. There is never a time when all the crops have been harvested and the land is dormant.
So, Thursday, November 24th was just another day for us here in Uganda.
Since the eMiEA office includes people from the United States, Canada and Uganda, we can’t just decide for the office to observe a US holiday. They made it the next best thing though, a Day of Prayer. Better, I think. The entire day at the office was spent focusing on God and prayer. There is at least one Day of Prayer per semester, with each having a different theme. This one explored the Greatness of God.
During the Day of prayer, we enjoyed an Ethiopian coffee ceremony, including roasting raw coffee beans, pounding the beans in a wooden mortar and pestle and steeping the coffee, all over charcoal. After the Day of Prayer, we had a catered meal of Luwombo, a delicacy meal for people of central Uganda. Luwombo is made of meat (chicken, beef or goat), vegetables and seasonings that are wrapped in a banana leaf and steamed. It is served and eaten from the leaf with each person getting their own banana leaf. We topped the meal off with a potluck dessert, including pumpkin pie, apple pie, chocolate cake, pumpkin mochi, and cupcakes, kind of a cross-cultural Thanksgiving meal.
We did have a more traditional Thanksgiving meal on Sunday afternoon hosting part of our eMi family. Although challenging to fit eight people around our little table that normally seats four, we managed with the help of the little table we had made for the kitchen. It was a wonderful meal of chicken (turkey is available but has to be preordered and is significantly more expensive), dressing, gravy, rice, sweet potato casserole, green beans, roasted potatoes and two kinds of bread. And there were wonderful desserts to top it off: pecan pie (Robert’s special request), pumpkin cheesecake, pumpkin snickerdooles and pumpkin blondies (we had a pumpkin theme going).
And there was wonderful fellowship. We shared about what we were thankful for, mostly centering on our eMi family. And as any good family should after a Thanksgiving meal, we played games: a couple of mean rounds of UNO. Unfortunately, the evening ended all too soon and everyone had to go home.
In all, it was a wonderful Thanksgiving, even if it did not fall on the day the US government set aside. But, I do not really need a specific day to be thankful. I am thankful every day.
“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18