Only a few in the pews as pandemic eats the soul of Christmas holidays in Rwanda

Sunday December 20 2020

Christmas decoration in the Kisimenti-Remera roundabout in Kigali. Stricter Covid-19 measures have been put in place in Rwanda. PHOTO | CYRIL NDEGEYA


It's the festive season and many streets and roundabouts around Kigali are lit with Christmas lights, giving the city a warm and celebratory mood.

This year, however, there is a general lack of enthusiasm for the holidays. Some people are hoping for a gentler, kinder 2021.

On Tuesday, the country woke up to newly released Covid-19 restrictions. The new measures are in response to a Covid-19 resurgence in which over 700 people tested positive and six succumbed to the virus in the past two weeks. Social gatherings including wedding ceremonies are now prohibited.

Going to church is central to Christmas celebrations in Rwanda, but the new measures restrict services to just once a week, with no more than 50 per cent occupancy.

Meetings and conferences cannot exceed 30 percent of venue capacity, and event organisers must comply with all Covid-19 preventive measures. With tests required for all participants, many events have been called off.

The curfew has been taken back to 9pm for most of Rwanda In Musanze, it has been set for from 7pm until 4am, following a spike in cases in the district. As the hotbed of tourism in the country, the measures will have a negative bearing on tourism.


Some Rwandans had made plans to travel upcountry with their families to enjoy the now-cheaper holiday amenities in places like Musanze, Rubavu and Nyagatare, but the latest measures have thrown a spanner in the works.

After almost a year of no concerts, Rwandan artists were warming up. Clarisse Karasira, a Rwandan folk music star, was scheduled to launch her first album on December 26, but this will not happen.

Other events that have been cancelled include a gospel concert by Chorale de Kigali.

The most celebrated holiday in the country is New Year’s eve. Some people spend the night in churches, while others watch fireworks. But this time it will be holiday unusual, as many people will be holed up in their homes, talking to their families, watching TV or sleeping.