It was Christmastime in Uganda and I was in Kampala at the mall on my weekly “city” run. As I was walking through Uchumi getting some groceries and enjoying a little bit of Western-type things I noticed a Santa Claus outfit. Hmmmmmm……..how could I resist such a thing? So I bought it, took it home to Gaba, and kept it hidden.
Christmas day kept creeping closer and I prepared all the things I needed until the 25th finally arrived. They were having a big service at the church so I knew a lot of the kids would be congregating there, but that some of the younger ones would still be at their houses around the village. I pulled the Santa outfit from the closet, pulled on the red pants and black boots, I strapped some pillows to my chest (I was actually really skinny then) to create the “belly” effect and put on the fluffy red jacket. I snuck into the bathroom and carefully put on the white beard and finally the hat and there before me was a reflection of Santa!
I got my big bag of goodies (a lot of different candies) and headed out the door to spread some Christmas cheer! Some of the kids in Gaba had heard of Santa Claus but a lot hadn’t, so they didn’t know who this man in red was. All the kids in Gaba knew me, but none of them recognized that it was me in the costume! I started making my way through the dirt streets and groups of kids started noticing me and running up to greet me and when they did I gave them candy! I made my way towards the church and as I did I gathered a larger group of kids around me who just kept following me, joining in the celebration. Finally I made it to the church just as they finished the service (exactly as I had planned) and was totally mobbed by kids, who by this time were figuring out that it was me. I started throwing candy in the air, to the left, to the right, candy everywhere. There was so much laughing and happiness it was awesome and then something happened that I didn’t expect.
For some reason there was a TV crew there from one of the local Ugandan stations and they noticed me passing out candy in the Santa outfit and came over to interview me. They asked who I was, where I lived, what I was doing in Uganda, and why I was passing out candy to all the children. I was able to share why I was in Uganda and how I wanted to bring a little bit of Christmas joy to these kids who didn’t need fancy gifts, a few pieces of candy brightened up their day.
After the interview, I threw out the rest of the candy and then started taking off pieces of the outfit and giving them away until I was standing in shorts, a t-shirt, and boots, back to my normal self. A group of us then went back to my house for a big Christmas dinner and to celebrate as a family. As time goes by, I forget a lot of little things from my time in Uganda, but this was one of those moments that I’ll never forget, the day Santa Claus came to Gaba!