Why fewer people are spending Christmas with extended family

Covid fears, hiked fare and strained relations among deterrents

In Summary

• Many people no longer force bonds with relatives simply because they are related

Passengers prepare to travel to Western
Passengers prepare to travel to Western
Image: FILE

When I was growing up, travelling to the village for Christmas was the ultimate Christmas plan. From mid-December, everyone was making plans to travel to the village to reunite with relatives. It was a time we all looked forward to.

But over the ages, for many reasons, this trend has since changed.

Marcus (a campus student) and his family got Covid sometime this year. The occurrence happened during the time the Delta wave was ravaging. As he says, it was a tough season for them, but fortunately, they all recovered from the disease and no one got severe symptoms.

Over the course of this dark phase, only a handful of their relatives cared to know how they were doing. The rest were very busy, too consumed by their own lives, the fact that they knew what was happening notwithstanding.

“When you’re in that dark place, you only care about getting better,” he says. “Then after that cloud passes, you realise how some people you thought cared about your well-being were unfettered.”

Having had that experience, he no longer feels the urge to reunite with his extended family because he sees no point being around people who were never present during their rainy days and pretending to be so happy around each other.

Instead, he’ll spend his holidays with friends. He feels this is an era of friends becoming family and family becoming strangers. A culture that is increasingly gaining momentum in the Kenyan society.

Many people no longer force bonds with their relatives simply because they are related. Many are choosing their peace over forced bonds.

With the advent of Covid and the recent spike, such a decision is easy to justify as one may use Covid as an excuse to avoid large gatherings. But from a different point of view, Covid has indeed made many avoid large gatherings for safety reasons. This is especially true of spending holidays in the village as there is a risk of infecting older persons who are at higher risk of contracting a severe form of the disease.

Tough economic times have made a significant contribution to this as well. During the Christmas season, most travel companies hike fares due to the high demand for their services. Due to this, many shy away from spending much money on transport, especially now when everything in the country is expensive.

Homeownership has also contributed to this. With more and more people owning homes within or around Nairobi, there comes the logistical challenge of whom to leave there if everyone is travelling. 

Suffice to say, the days when everyone travelled to the village for Christmas are long gone. In every aspect of our lives, change is the only constant. It’s time to embrace the new way of celebrating Christmas and make the best out of it. And while it is important to keep ties with our relatives, where such relations get toxic, one’s mental peace comes first.