My Christmas events since 1990

Posted: December 27, 2017 by PaanLuel Wël Media Ltd. in Junub Sudan, Opinion Articles, Opinion Writers, Philip Thon Aleu

By Philip Thon Aleu, Entebbe, Uganda

17 years ago during the Easter of 2000 in Mangalatoria DC

17 years ago during the Easter of 2000 in Mangalatoria DC! with Thon Anyang Anyieth Nhial, Ngor Jok Deel, Maluak Ayuen Chol, Alier Cier Mading…

December 27, 2017 (SSB) — This is a record of all my Christmas events since I was baptized in Makuach, Bor, Jonglei state, in 1990.

Part 1: Makuach, Bor, 1990-1994
1. 1990: Makuach, Bor: After being baptized as a Christian, I was obliged to celebrate Christmas for the first time in 1990 in Makuach, east of Bor town. I did not know what exactly it meant at the time and just enjoyed the women and men throwing their arms back and forth and singing some songs that did not make sense to me at all.
2. 1991: Makuach, Bor: This was a full-time event after the SPLM split and subsequent Bor massacre and cattle disappeared in my life for the first time. I watched Church Choir marching on the road and amongst the bones from unburied dead. I followed the marchers throughout until I was tired and retired home.
3. 1992: Yuddu IDP camp, Kaya (at South Sudan Uganda border). This was my first Christmas season in our new home at Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camp. I remember this event vividly for two reasons: a). Our family arrived from Bor after a journey of 43 days; and a day before the church marches which I later discovered to be on every December 24th. b). for the first time, I saw women and children well dressed. In Bor, few people were clothed in 1991. I was exhausted from the one and half months walking (from Bor to Kaya) and simply watched the parade from one spot with folded arms.

4. 1993: Magalatoria IDP camp: After series of displacements as Sudan Armed Forces captured towns from SPLA including Kaya, my next Christmas was in MDC – Magalatoria Displaced Camp. I think I was just running about. I never marched or made a big deal of this event. In fact, I thought those marches were held on the Christmas Day, not December 24th (and I think some old, illiterate people from my village still don’t know December 25th as Christmas Day).

5. 1994: Ariwa Refugees’ Camp, Uganda: The displacement continues and I celebrated that Christmas Day in Ariwa Refugees settlement in then Arua district, northern Uganda. And for the first, I got new clothes and celebrated. Those were days you don’t wash the new cloth, otherwise, you may spoil the trademarks, an important indicator of newly purchased shirt or trousers. I didn’t march formally there too. I was in the crowd.

Part 2: Mugali and Aswa, 1995-1999

6. 1995: Magali, near Nimule: Our family relocated from Uganda and returned to Sudan. On December 24th, 1995, I was in Magali IDP camp southeast of Nimule and joined the church marches. Magali was a large camp and had very many churches. I ran about in newly purchased sports shoe that later destroyed my toes because they weren’t my size. There was no option.

7. 1996: Aswa, near Nimule: Our family relocated again, this time from Magali, to Nimule and on to Aswa on Nimule- Juba highway. That was the first time I was involved in organizing Masira (street marches) in our small church of about 200 members. I sang my lungs out and read bible verses during the services – that was the year I learnt to read and write in my Bor dialect and the bible was, as it continues to be, the only literature. And frankly, life seems to have improved considerably and I got new clothes, shoes and new status in the church that Christmas. I was also earning incomes from my small retail businesses and afforded myself clothes and fitting shoes. It was fun.

8. 1997: Magalatoria: After four years, I returned to Magalatoria IDP camp. MDC was a great place and fabulous to celebrate Christmas there. Churches were multi-clans and every event, including Masira, was assigned on merits. Being new and now matured enough to play the crucial role, I first took the backseat. Besides, there was a school to attend to and I spared my weekends and holidays for church events. 1997 December 24 and 25 went smoothly. I mainly placed spectator’s role, criticizing poor dressing, children and adults whose hair is infested by bugs (bugs were real my friend. I eradicate it some two decades ago. Poverty and war and expose people to every danger in life.)

9. 1998: Magalatoria: A full year in one location after years of successive displacements and unnecessary movements, then December 1998 arrived. I was well prepared. My hair, clothes, handwritten hymns were neat and clean. I attended church choir rehearsals including dances, staged marches and improved my reading and writing in Bor dialect by participating in Sunday school events and copying church hymns from exercise books to another. Besides, I engaged in business and my incomes improved, meager as it was but sufficient to afford new cloth or two and some slippers (yes, slippers that we wear to the bathroom today were worn on Christmas Day as best shoes). On December 1998, I was in the second row behind the man holding the Sunday school choir cross.

10. 1999: Magalatoria: Without the slightest doubt, this was my climax of my Christmas seasons. First of all, I took the first position and I held the cross to lead my Sunday school choir of block B for the first time. I was dressed in white shirt and red trousers, across the designed ribbon, rested on my shoulders and gripped a wooden cross in my right hand. Two strong young men followed me with a banner, a symbol of cross painted on and some biblical writing on it. That was joyous.

Part 3: Magalatoria and Yei, 2000-2017

10. 2000: Munduri cattle camp: There’s nothing celebratory to remember about this Christmas which I spent in the bush rearing cattle in Munduri. This was a necessity to win the hearts of men in the cattle camp to release a cow to the market to cover my tuition fees and join secondary school in 2001.

11. 2001 and 2002 Magalatoria IDP camp: In IDP camps those days, being secondary school student was a daunting task. A penny like $1 was not easy to earn. So instead of marching on the streets on December 24 and spending the overnight singing from the Dinka Bor hymn book in the church, I divided my time carefully and made good use it. But honestly, I was still a very good Christian and made sure that whatever I do during Christmas does not increase my chances of being a spoiled child. I became a commercial cameraman and took a lot of photos during Christmas and earned incomes. (One photo of my younger brother Kur Aleu Deng and his peers taken in 2001 is attached).

12. 2003: Yei Town: Every single year has it won challenges and I would scarify my Christmas to prepare for the following year. I arrived Yei on December 22, 2003, on transit to Bor. Without success to continue my journey, I spent this unceremonious Christmas in Yei town and together dodged antipope bombing with residents of Yei.

13. 2004: Makuach, Bor: For the first time in 13 years, I celebrated Christmas in Bor. much had changed. Men, girls, women and boys were well dressed and I did not see anyone using the blanket to his/her nakedness during the December 24 Masira. I watched, marched from the roadside and prayed in a church built a few meters from the spot I was born over two decades ago. Unlike 1990 where churches were found in main town centres, in December 2004, synagogues were built in every village because Christianity spread like wildfire in Bor from 1992 onwards. Right so, the survivors of “Ca-poth” famine did not dare to be tied down in darkness by the demanding African gods.

14. 2005 and 2006: Magalatoria IDP camp: I kept my ties with MDC and would travel to the camp during holidays and Christmas seasons to spend times with friends, relatives and fellow churchgoers. Now a senior, I took the backseat and merely attended night and early morning prayers. Because I mastered nearly all the songs in the Bor hymn book, I was a resourceful person to attend church series. There were no guitars and people with powerful voices were vital. I was one.

15: 2007-2017: Over the last decade, I had not attended an overnight prayer, something I should redeem. Nevertheless, I have enjoyed Christmas season in my own way and gave the best I could to people, including my children, to have a colorful celebration.

With this, I have discovered through my own experience how I missed a lot in my childhood, early adulthood and my fledgeling family. However, I have no regret for scarifying some of my Christmas holidays to try to address issues in life over the last 27 years.

And with this, I wish you Merry Christmas and Happy New Year 2018.

The opinion expressed here is solely the view of the writer. The veracity of any claim made is the responsibility of the author, not PaanLuel Wël: South Sudanese Bloggers (SSB) website. If you want to submit an opinion article or news analysis, please email it to SSB do reserve the right to edit material before publication. Please include your full name, email address and the country you are writing from, plus a concise biography of yourself.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s