We plough through December’s festivities (real and imagined) and unashamedly gape in suffocating desperation at January’s seemingly unending financial chasm, and wonder what happened.  

Who will protect the hapless Kenyan from himself? And can the Kenyan be helped?

I mean, what’s with us Kenyans in December? We have no rhyme or reason to our buying; no, spending.  We plough through Jamhuri Day which mercifully this year was not on a Friday or Monday. Otherwise, we would have spent on the ‘extended weekend’.  And then, we plough through Christmas to New Year, travelling upcountry, just resting (whatever that means) and going on holiday. And speaking of holidays, part of the ritual includes Nairobians getting away from Nairobi and Nairobians, to go on the annual pilgrimage to Mombasa to go meet other Nairobans there. Finally, in ritualistic style we plough through December’s festivities (real and imagined) and unashamedly gape in suffocating desperation at January’s seemingly unending financial chasm, and wonder what happened.  That is our Christmas tradition.

We can’t help ourselves, can we?

And then we press repeat as we did so last year, will do so the next, and the next after that.  We just can’t help ourselves, can we? And sellers won’t be the ones to do so. Certainly not. They are happy to ride the Kenyan buyer’s wave of insanity that crashes to shore every December. The malls are appropriately dressed to put you in the mood to spend. What with their bright lights, jingly music and alluring ‘Sales’ all calling you out by name? The media is expertly surfing this wave of insanity bombarding us with unending offers and holiday mood inducing music. I know one that has declared itself, “Your official Christmas channel.” 

The 13th salary is a jackpot

And then, in the thick of this dizzying celebratory mood, you pay the Kenyan his salary for December on the 15th. Is this not a recipe for disaster? Judging by how he conducts himself immediately thereafter, he doesn’t see this as an advance but as a sudden bout of wealth creation. November’s salary isn’t fully exhausted and kaboom!, here’s more. Jackpot! What follows? Sniff sniff, can you smell that? The intoxicating aroma of crispy new notes just begging to be (ab)used . Can you see that? The glittering hypnotic lights guiding you lamb-like to let yourself be slaughtered on the altar of the cashier’s till. Can you feel that? The magnetic touch of the eighth cold bottle of beer, the texture of the new skirt, the smoothness of the i-Phone curves; that touch can only be appeased by spending on it (sorry, buying it).

Planning is a bore

Attempts at giving a 13th salary, personal finance training, invitations to buy holiday packages in monthly instalments from January, and to visit the village in November before prices hike, have all failed. They are no fun; they call for planning. And they don’t trigger the adrenaline charged, last minute execution Kenyans are obsessed with.  Two years ago when Form One selection was announced, for the first time, in early December, the Kenyan parent’s lamentation was, “Argh! Now why did (CS) Matiang’I do so? Now we must pay fees which means not having any money for spending!”

Who will protect the hapless Kenyan from himself?


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