Since I can remember Christmas was a holiday rich with traditions including family gatherings, special holiday eats, way too many treats, beautiful decorations, the exchanging of gifts and so much more.
Last year however, I decided to spend the holiday a little different. I packed my bags and traveled nearly 10,000 miles to spend a week with a group of individuals who don’t celebrate Christmas. Although I found myself leaving my traditions behind that season, I learned quite a few new ones, as I was welcomed into a very unique tribe and their village.
I remember stepping foot off a small Cessna on December 24th and taking in a very diverse landscape that consisted of expansive grasslands, beautiful mountains and breathtaking lakes. As we gathered our things, the sound of the planes propeller was slowly replaced by a faint chanting as a group emerged from the village ahead of us. They were dressed in a mixture of vibrant blue and red cloths, which I would later learn were called “Shuka.” The women all wore matching white hats, and the men downed spears attached to a belt around their waist. Both were draped in an array of beautiful beaded pieces.
As they gathered around us they took our hands and formed a circle in which we all chanted, jumped, and laughed as we experienced a traditional Maasai Tribe welcoming also known as the Adamu dance.
Before I jump into our experience, I want to share a little more about this group. The Maasai are an indigenous ethnic group in Africa of semi-nomadic people settled in Kenya and northern Tanzania. The tribe arrived at their present-day location between the 17th and 18th centuries. They displaced and assimilated many of the tribes they came into contact with and gradually expanded their territory. The Maasi territory reached its peak size in the 19th century, with their land stretching across the Great Rift Valley from Mount Marsabit in Kenya to Dodoma in Tanzania.
Over the next couple days we immersed ourselves fully into their culture.
Maasai lifestyle is very communal and children are viewed as belonging to everyone within the tribe. Boys are expected to shepherd the family’s cattle while girls’ help their mothers gather firewood, cook and handle most other domestic responsibilities. In the Maasai culture, the number of children and cattle you have measures wealth
During our stay, we were invited into their homes, which were free standing huts made of cow dung, and built almost entirely by the women of the tribe. The inside of the homes consisted of small makeshift rooms, with beds made of sticks and cowhides used as mattresses. A small fire typically burns in the main area of the hut serving as a heater and stove when needed.
While we did not partake in a traditional Maasai diet as it consist of almost entirely of blood and milk, and occasionally meat derived from their cattle.
As mentioned before, we learned that the brightly colored cloth they were are called Shuka. The color of Maasai Shuka’s vary between, back, blue, red, and often purple. The color one wears is largely base don age and gender. After their circumcision, young men will wear will wear black for several months. Women typically wear checked, striped, or patterned pieces of cloth. Most Maasai men and women shave their head during rites of passage such as marriage and circumcision. The only members of the Maasai tribe allowed to have longer hair are the warriors.
Most Maasai men and women wear very beautiful and intricate beaded jewelry. Maasai jewelry often serves as a symbol of wealth and place in society. When we first saw some of the pieces we noticed that they al have 6 distinct colors red, green, blue, yellow, white, and black. Each color represents something special to the tribe. For example, red represents unity, as when the communities gather the slaughter a cow, which bleeds red.
Although different this Christmas became one I would never forget. It was one about the experiences, memories, and amazing opportunity to immerse myself in a culture so vastly different than my own.
I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas and happy hosting into the New Year.
Thanks for sharing @Jennifer1897 - it's really nice to read about an experience which is a totally different to the ones we're used to! It seems like a really interesting thing to do and so much to learn too 😊
Was there a particular reason why you chose to visit the Maasai Tribe?
@Katie When I had been researching the trip beforehand, visiting with some of the tribes and really being able to live alongside the locals was something I had wanted to do, however I was not sure if any of them allowed for something of that nature. I found that the Maasai boarder a lot of the national reserves and parks so they are open to not only allowing visitors but also hosting them in their villages.
Thanks @Jennifer1897 for your amazing Christmas story.
Like @Katie, I was also wondering what brought you to the decision to choose the Maasai experience for your Christmas? Did you have to provide your own food? Bed rolls etc?
It is important to do these extraordinary adventures whilst your body is up to it. For I’m afraid my days of roughing it are limited or come with a few caveats. lol 😆
With Covid19 ever present, having this memory so fresh in your mind is a blessing....
Take care Jennifer and all going well, you can be off enjoying future travels soon!
@Cathie19 Yes, we did provide our own food. We planned beforehand and brought a lot of dehydrated meals and protein bars, similar to what you would bring on a camping trip. We were kindly offered the opportunity to indulge in the traditional Maasai diet, but we respectfully declined. I don't know how my body would have reacted to blood and milk haha
But yes, hopefully we will overcome this pandemic soon and be free to move around again. Take care as well 😃
What an amazing adventure you have been on @Jennifer1897
Did you go exploring at Dodoma?
It appears there was once a German presence in the region of Maasai where you were visiting where they built Railways (which are quite different to the one's we know today,and Nickel Mining.
It's interesting how some of their practices are still very much like rural locations around the world where women also milk cows and children are actively involved in outdoor activities.
Dodoma Village made famous by the Prince
You can also find some interesting history about the other places you have mentioned using related keywords through this website.
@Helen427 Unfortunately we did not. I had read a little bit about Dodoma before traveling. We did stay in Arusha for a few days and considered making our way over there, however it was a little further than we thought.
Thank you for sharing the site, very interesting read.