Blog: Love feasts and other Christmas traditions

Dr Mhoira Leng
22nd December 2012

Christmas is a time to reflect, celebrate, enjoy friends and family and sense again the wonder of God coming down to earth as a tiny, vulnerable baby. We know the stories and the carols and we all have our own traditions. I have been privileged to spend Christmas in many different parts of the world. In India we ate fragrant chicken biryani and the CMC Vellore students came round late at night to sing carols; in Kerala the Santas wore plastic faces and surgeons gloves which was a little disconcerting. In Tunisia we had plenty choices of turkey along with spicy harissa and then sang carols on the beach. In Scotland I have been known to go paddling in the snow - in a kayak!  Here in Africa I have spent Christmas in the middle of the amazing animals, birds and scenery of the national parks of Uganda and last year saw a leopard hanging out in a tree! I also am able to join a Lugogo baptist church tradition of a Love Feast. We are invited to bring food from our national or local setting and to bless one another, care for one another, sing and dance (and Acholi dancing is AMAZING) and share the love of God within the church and with those who are vulnerable, lonely and in need. I was busy baking cakes and very happy to have some special Acholi food ; malakwang, boo and lapena! What a wonderful concept! Instead of focusing on what we get and the increasing materialism of our world we focus on what we can give, with whom we can share blessings, who needs a hug, who can we thank for all they are and all they give.

We were able to put this into practise at our first patients' Christmas party in Mulago. There is a hostel that allows women to stay who are receiving radiotherapy treatment for several months but who come from far away and cannot travel daily to Mulago. It is the only radiotherapy centre in Uganda and also take patients from South Sudan, Eastern DRC and Rwanda as they do not have any radiotherapy in those areas. These ladies bring a family member to care for them but are otherwise so far from family and friends, often worried and frightened by their illness and the treatments and with very little to encourage or support them. Our nurses and volunteer team visit regularly to offer practical, social and pastoral support. We decided to try and have a small party for the first time. Picture the scene; a very hot day, more than 50 patients and carers, singing carols and songs, sharing moving testimonies, offering encouragement, dancing, varied languages and dialects and traditions, tinsel trimmed hats, DVD with the nativity film, guests of honour from the radiotherapy department and above all food - good African food heaped as high as possible on every plate. Many thanks to Cairdeas for sponsoring the party, to the volunteers who worked so hard to make it come true and to all for sharing and loving. A true Love Feast.
There is beautiful poem by Christina Rossetti in 1893 called Christmastide that has been sung as a carol at Christmas since then. It is titled
Love came down at Christmas....the last stanza reads .....
Love shall be our token
Love shall be yours and love be mine
Love to God and all men
Love for plea and gift and sign

From all at Cairdeas and the MPCU and from myself  have a wonderful Christmas as we look forward to another amazing year with many more feasts of love!

If you want to support in any way please get in touch or go to our Christmas appeal to support training.