It is official. Christmas is on its way. While shopping in Simba, one of the main supermarkets in town, I saw a flashing Christmas tree for sale. Behind it stood a more modest model. Over the last few weeks I have noticed the toy sheves starting to fill up, the prices inflated quite a bit from this time last year. Next stop was Nakumatt, Kigali's premier supermarket, where I almost came face to face with a large smiling plastic Santa. I don't remember being confronted with the festive season, quite so early or in this manner last year. It came as quite a surprise.
Last week I was visiting a German friend who is involved in children's ministry at Scripture Union. I am helping her to translate an instruction manual for nursery schools from French into English. When I arrived I noticed a collection of small wrapped numbered parcels sitting on a low shelf in her living room. At first I thought she was planning a party for the street children associated with S U. No. Next I wondered if they were perhaps raffle prizes. Wrong again. Then I looked more closely at the numbers. It was an upmarket Advent Calendar. Apparently it is a custom in Germany to wrap up small presents to be opened a day at a time during the month of December leading up to Christmas Day. The parcel had arrived from Germany a few weeks ago and was now waiting for December 1st. There is a special story attached to this Advent Gift.
The organist and the girl responsible for changing the hymn numbers at Ingrid's church would have a race to see whether the introduction to the hymn could be played before the numbers had been changed. Whoever lost the race over the year was responsible for making up an Advent Parcel for one of the church missionaries. This went on for a number of years until eventually the two people concerned decided to get married. Rather than continuing to be in competition they now make up the gift together. It was Ingrid's turn this year to receive the present. I can't wait to discover what is inside some of those pretty wrapped packages.