The Turkana nomad such as Losikiria in northwestern Kenya
never dreamed of a white Christmas nor any other Christmas traditions that come
from the western world.
As he leads his camels and cattle across the rolling hills
of Turkana he finds his one hope in an otherwise hopeless night In the light of
a distant fire in his manyatta, the thorn bush enclosure of corrals and huts
which he calls his home. His thoughts are on his wife who will soon give birth
to a child who will be his security in his old age. Hope from a newly lit fire
and security from a newly born baby are symbolically united by the Turkana
nomads. These symbols become part of their Christmas celebrations.
Under the star-filled dome of a perfectly clear sky,
Turkana nomads such as Losikiria sit on the sandy ground as the celebrant starts
the Christmas midnight mass. Although few Turkana are Christians, they are a
religious people who according to their customs traditionally pray actively and
fervently. Now in the liturgy they pray new prayers of hope: "Father, you make
this holy night radiant with the splendor of Jesus Christ, our light. We welcome
him as Lord, the light of the world."
Once the birth of Christ is proclaimed during the Gospel
of the Eucharistic celebration, all the women run into the manyatta with shouts
of joy to light a fire as they would do traditionally when a child is born.
According to their custom they should now bring the
fire into the hut of the mother; so symbolically they bring the Christmas fire
into the house of the oldest woman because elders have positions of honor among
the Turkana ethnic group. Meanwhile the men have been waiting outside in the
darkness. They enter with great joy and greet the child symbolized by the new
The outdoor Eucharist continues as a thanksgiving
celebration for the birth of Christ, "the light of the world." Then follows a
cheerful traditional feast and the Christmas blessing. During these celebrations
the fire is tended by two elderly women and remains the focus of attention for
all the Turkana nomads. It is a symbol for their one hope in an otherwise
hopeless night. They know that God is present among them. "The kindness and love
of God our Savior has appeared to all people" (Titus 3:4).