Berekti Asfeday was born in Eritrea but moved to Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia, aged 3 or 4; she came to London in 1974. She talks about dressing up as ‘Mother Christmas’.
Listen to Berekti (in Tigrinya, mp3, 874kb)
Read transcript in Tigrinya (pdf, 47kb)
'I start my preparations early in the morning the day before Christmas. I prepare different types of dishes: I make enjera, our traditional bread - actually my daughter helps me in preparing the enjera; I prepare the different stews. Once we finish our preparations I go to church and stay until the ceremony finishes. Then all of them come to my house late at night. We eat our dinner together, and then the children have their time to open up their presents. Everybody is happy at that time.
'Then I dress as Father Christmas and the children surround me… I used to dress like that in the church as well. I used to buy cheap things from the shops such as picture frames, toys, sweets and books and wrap them properly before Christmas.
'On Christmas Eve I put on my wigs, my artificial white beard, carry my small bag full of presents and go to church. I give the gifts out to children in the church. Even the old men and women can’t recognise me. They know only when they hear my voice and they say “She is Ms Asfeday” and they laugh.
'You know I learned this from the church I used to go, a protestant church in Addis Ababa, when I was a child. A person used to come dressed like Father Christmas, full of sweets, and used to give them to all the children. I did the same thing here in the church for three years. I sat on a chair and gave the presents to the children attending the services, or who come with their parents.
'There were also five or six White British Orthodox families who attend the Christmas Service. One Christmas I said to them "from now on, no Father Christmas, only Mother Christmas". Everybody around me laughed and clapped their hands and cheered me. As a matter of fact it was St Mary who gave birth to Jesus, not his father, we should say Mother Christmas, shouldn’t we? [laughs] From that day onwards people started calling me Mother Christmas. We celebrate Christmas magnificently.'
Copyright Evelyn Oldifeld Unit