Tales of a Namibian Christmas

The unique Namibian cultural experiences of Christmas is encapsulated in a book.

04 December 2018 | Cultural

Henriette Lamprecht – “Throughout the land we sing, we drum. Our hearts beat hope for Christ to come.”

In a nutshell, the words of Namibian poet and writer Dorian Haarhoff encapsulates the country’s Christmas spirit which is celebrated through stories, reflections and poems in Every December – a Namibian Christmas. From Katima Mulilo to Lüderitz, Opuwo to Keetmanshoop and Windhoek to Swakopmund, Namibians celebrate their diversity and culture with a thread of love, peace and togetherness running through every poem, story and reflection in this gem which was compiled by Kuiseb Publishers.

According to Waldi Fritzsche from the Namibia Scientific Society, the idea to publish a Namibian reflection of Christmas “has been around for a long time.”

“At the beginning of last year, we decided to actively work on it,” Waldi explains.

The project started after the European Union’s ambassador to Namibia, Ms Jana Hybaskova, asked Waldi to define the “cultural identity” of Namibians.

“I realised that we have various cultural backgrounds, but have not yet defined our mutual cultural identity. A Christmas book seemed to be a good start!”

The main criteria was that all stories and poems had to relate to Namibia, either taking place in the country or being of a family or a person of Namibia, and had to be inclusive - an opportunity to give everyone a chance to identify with Christmas in Namibia.

“Thus, we tried to include as many languages and draw submissions from the vast variety of cultural backgrounds.”

The call for submissions was made through the media via radio and newspapers as well as social media (Facebook). Requests were also sent via the Scientific Society’s distribution list.

Waldi says that over 40 submissions were received.

“Unfortunately we had to turn down a few entries as they had been published elsewhere, were not new or authentic, and because we had a limited amount of resources and available pages.”

The poems, reflections, stories and artwork are truly Namibian, reflecting what makes the country so great: its diversity.

Christmas is normally associated with a happy time of the year, however several stories that were received, were “quite the contrary.”

“We decided to not only have a ‘feel good’ book, but to also include the sad stories, thus encouraging the reader to also think about their actions and their consequences during the festive season.”

“The invisible, common thread that runs through all the stories is Namibia,” says Waldi.

“We wanted to create a book that is unique and that would suit our country. Thus, snow and fir trees do not appear in the stories.”

Thanks to the support that the European Union has shown Namibia, the book could be presented as a Christmas present to disadvantaged people who could not afford to buy it themselves, and was distributed at old age homes, hospitals and orphanages.

“It was well received and people see it as a great and unique gift for their loved ones.”

Being a book “from Namibians for Namibians,” it was mainly sold locally.

“However, we heard of quite a lot of books that were given to friends and family overseas. One of our upmarket tour operators even gave a copy to each of their tourists who visited Namibia during the festive season!”

Out of the 1,000 copies over 90 % were sold or donated and only a few copies are available at this stage, according to Waldi.

Plans to publish a second one “are always there, it is just a matter of capacity,” she explains.

“Submitted stories need to be laid out, edited and ‘packaged’, taking a considerable amount of time. Then someone must pay for translations and printing cost. When we find a willing sponsor, we may consider publishing a second book, I’m just not sure when!”

(Every December: Namibian Christmas – Stories, Reflections, Poems is available at the offices of the Namibia Scientific Society at 110 Robert Mugabe Avenue in Windhoek, Windhoeker Buchhandlung, Namibia Book Market and Windhoek Book Den.)

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