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25 things that could go wrong this Christmas

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By ELVIS ONDIEKI
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Attend church, go to a chosen place for a sumptuous meal, then gulp down the drinks that appease the throat. Then more indulgence, more merry-making, more interactions, until the day ends. That is the ideal Christmas plan for many.

But things don’t always go according to plan. Mishaps can plague the big day, which may cause agony or negate the festive mood altogether.

A number of things have gone wrong on past Christmas days in Kenya and abroad.

An accident.

Accidents usually surge over Christmas. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

Christmas Day 2014 was a sad one for a family that lost five members after their car veered off the road and plunged into a dam in Migori County. The driver, Ms Jane Kavene, was trying to avoid a muddy stretch on a road she was driving on for the first time. Last Christmas, a traffic police officer died after being run over by a 52-seater bus that ordinarily plies the Nairobi-Githurai route, which was carrying passengers to Kisumu. The brakes failed and the officer, who was trying to stop it, was not aware of the malfunction, leading to the tragedy that left passengers injured. Police boss Joseph Boinnet said it has become “almost predictable” that accidents will surge over Christmas and reminded Kenyans to never drive while drunk.

2. Food-related complications

It was a Christmas to forget for one family in Uganda’s Mbale district last year when four children from one family died after eating poisoned food for supper, with their parents being hospitalised. Food is synonymous with partying and the incident will be a permanent reminder of how it can make people vulnerable.

Moreover, the desire to over-indulge during Christmas is suspected to be one of the reasons why the number of heart attacks is highest on Christmas Eve in Sweden. Researchers who analysed 238,014 heart attacks found out that the risk of having an attack on Christmas rises by 40 per cent on December 24 of every year. They released their findings early last week.

Food is synonymous with partying, but what happens when you get food poisoning?

Food is synonymous with partying, but what happens when you get food poisoning? PHOTO | FOTOSEARCH

The first criminal case filed at the magistrate’s court in Kerugoya in 2013 was about a Christmas death. Duncan Muthee Kethi was the suspect. Prosecutors said he had gone to drink alcohol at Kariguini Bar on Christmas Day 2012 with his friend. Then his friend deliberately poured beer, which led to a confrontation during which he fatally injured him. In May 2013, Mr Muthee was sentenced to 30 years in jail for manslaughter. His argument that they were both drunk could not sway even the High Court when he appealed against the 30-year jail term. The penalty should be enough to slam the brakes on anyone who would want to harm another in drunken stupor.

Criminals know too well how the festive mood makes people drop their guard, and the possibility of Christmas Day being ruined by robbers is not too remote.

According to Mr Tony Sahni, the CEO of security firm Securex, carjacking is among the common crimes that happen around Christmas time.

Mr Sahni advises that if anyone is visiting a new area during Christmas, they should learn the crime trends in that place.

“For instance, locations that have been troublesome in Mombasa in the past include Kisauni, Nyali, Likoni and Old Town. It is not advisable to walk alone at night in these areas. Try to blend in with the local crowd as opportunistic thugs often look to prey on foreigners,” he says.

5. Accidents at recreation spots

In neighbouring Uganda, there were nine deaths on Lake Albert on Christmas Day 2016, resulting from the capsizing of a boat that was carrying merrymakers who were going to watch a highly anticipated football match. While that was happening, a young couple in Russia had it rough when a rope-assisted jump over a frozen River Tom turned tragic. They suffered severe injuries.

Kenya Red Cross communications manager Noellah Musundi told Lifestyle that the society’s staff will be ready to assist in case of such mishaps. “The Kenya Red Cross is always on standby to serve the nation and will continue to provide its humanitarian services throughout the festive season,” she said. “Our emergency responders will be on standby to provide all the necessary help in case of any disaster or emergency.”

Be cautious about in-house parties, as there is high risk of drugging.

Be cautious about in-house parties, as there is high risk of drugging. PHOTO | FOTOSEARCH

In December 2014, a resident of Nairobi’s Komarock estate, who preferred to be identified only as Martin, attended a party where some biscuits were served. He took three of them. He told Lifestyle that he kept feeling dizzy as he continued eating, not knowing what was amiss.

On reaching his house, he was all a mess.

“My wife gave me water to shower. After the shower, I literally ate all the food in the house, and I felt as if the world was turning upside down. I tried drinking water and milk but there was little effect. I had to be taken to hospital where I was injected with intravenous fluids. I came to my senses the following day,” he said.

Counsellors have been urging parents to be particularly cautious about in-house parties their children attend on Christmas Day and other festivities, as there is high risk of drugging that may lead to rape.

7. Domestic disagreements

Given the expectations people have for Christmas, they may turn violent when things don’t go their way. Christmas Day 2015 is a case in point, when a 39-year-old man in Mwiyala village in Kakamega County hit his wife to death in a quarrel over meat.

Besides, the things people do or fail to do on Christmas have led to divorces, as evidenced in a case finalised at the High Court in Mombasa in August 2014. The husband told the court that on Christmas Day 2011, his erstwhile wife chose to stay at her rural home rather than stay with him, which he interpreted as a sign of disengaging.

Marriage counsellor Jennie Karina told Lifestyle in a past interview that one way to avoid such disagreements is by having a working festive season plan. “Couples ought to sit down and agree what they expectations are, family expectations and how to meet those expectations,” she said.

Blackout.

All the best plans for the day may actually need a nod from the electricity distributor. PHOTO | FOTOSEARCH

“As power goes off, someone at Kenya Power is working overtime, on Christmas Day,” tweeted lawyer Mugambi Nandi on Christmas Day 2011.

“Kenya keeps it winning. Christmas morning and no power in so many places. The number of different ways my own country assaults me!” ranted Crystal on Twitter on Christmas Day 2014. Well, all the best plans for the day may actually need a nod from the electricity distributor.

Last Christmas was a sad day for an elderly couple in New Port Richey in Florida, United States, as a house went up in flames. The local fire rescue chief told Fox News that the source of the fire was a Christmas tree that had old lights on it. “Don’t leave your tree lights on when you leave the house. And if you have a live tree, be sure to keep it watered really well,” says a Fox advisory accompanying the report.

In the lead-up to last year’s Christmas, the Nairobi-Nakuru highway was heavily packed with cars, with motorists spending hours on the route. Naivasha head of the police Titus Mathuku said it was due to “unusual heavy traffic” by commuters headed for Christmas celebrations.

“I want to encourage all Kenyans to plan their travel schedules properly. Proper planning will ensure that you do not have to travel on the busiest days, getting into traffic snarl-ups and then taking the sort of shortcuts that land you in trouble with the law,” says Mr Boinnet.

11. Failure of technology systems

Mobile banking service M-Shwari, which allows for saving cash and taking loans through mobile phones, was offline the whole day last Christmas — meaning many could not access cash when they needed it. “An outage led to customers being unable to access services from 10pm on December 24, 2017,” read part of the message that Commercial Bank of Africa, the co-owner of M-Shwari, posted to announce a return of services on December 26.

Another famous technology failure happened on Christmas Day 2014 when Xbox Live and Sony PlayStation networks went offline, leaving millions of gamers — who had planned to mark Christmas by having fun though electronic games — high and dry.

Of bar brawls and fights.

Of bar brawls and fights. PHOTO | FOTOSEARCH

Wearing new clothes on Christmas can never run out of vogue. But what if your new garment is so small or so big as to embarrass you for the rest of the day?

Various blogs call for physical shopping compared with doing it online. They also advocate pre-testing a garment to lessen the chances of being disappointed when it is worn on D-Day.

The Kenya Meteorological Department’s five-day forecast says Christmas Day will be punctuated by sunny intervals throughout the country.

“From Monday to Wednesday, the county is likely to experience mainly sunny intervals. The rainfall is expected to be of moderate intensity but it might be heavier on Saturday and Sunday,” says the weatherman with regard to the Nairobi region, meaning some garments may not be compatible with the weather that day.

13. Failed sales initiatives

Some businesspeople are usually waiting for Christmas Day to make top dollar, but it does not always happen. Photographers, for instance, have for the past couple of years been recording reduced earnings as smartphones become the preferred mode of preserving memories. That could mean a hungry Christmas for many. “There have never been so many photographs taken, but photography is dying,” veteran London-based photographer Antonio Olmos told The Guardian in December 2013.

You have a family looking up to you for Christmas plans but no salary to facilitate that. Can Christmas get any worse than that? In South Africa, employees of the cash-strapped state airline face that possibility. Salaries that are normally paid on December 21 and 22, says the Mail and Guardian, will this month be paid on December 27. It makes a case for saving for festivities.

15. Murder and terror attacks

The carnival mood that spreads all over the globe may just be the ideal atmosphere for criminals to perpetrate crimes. Christmas Day 2005 had such an occurrence in Trans Nzoia County. That evening, armed persons raided the house of Tom Chepot and killed his wife, his brother-in-law, his nephew and three other guests. Mr Chepot survived narrowly, and the motive of the attack puzzled police.

Terrorists also consider Christmas as a prime day to attack, and last year the Federal Bureau of Investigations in the US arrested a man who planned to unleash terror in San Francisco on Christmas. Everitt Aaron Jameson, then aged 26, described his attack plan to an undercover FBI agent who he believed was a senior leader of terror group ISIS.

The Constitution orders police to ensure any arrested person is taken to court within 24 hours. But because Tuesday and Wednesday will be public holidays, anyone who flouts the law from tomorrow will easily spend Christmas behind bars.

With all the cooking during the festive season, accidents could happen in the kitchen.

With all the cooking during the festive season, accidents could happen in the kitchen. PHOTO | FOTOSEARCH

You may crave a quiet Christmas but the final word could come from that neighbour with a new music system, who may have happened to invite scores of guests. In a South African town called Evander Dam, local authorities have passed by-laws prohibiting sale of alcohol and loud music within the residential area this Christmas. “The Bulletin (a local publication) received several complaints regarding noise, pollution and people relieving themselves in public,” says a Facebook post.

Given the erratic supply of water in the cities, the risk of travelling far while leaving taps open is high. A message circulating on social media, urging Kenyans to ensure taps are closed before travelling, has resonated with many. An unmitigated running tap on Christmas Day might mean a flooded house and ruined household items.

19. Overstretched eateries and bad food

Some eateries will receive more buyers than others, and that may lead to a situation that happened in the United Kingdom last Christmas, where a Tesco, a popular retailer, delivered turkeys that were rotten, meaning many did not enjoy their lunch that day. “Some reported that the turkeys were so foul smelling they were forced to bin them before even putting the birds in the oven,” reported the Telegraph.

Some candidates who sat this year’s KCPE and KCSE might have a different Christmas this year, especially if they posted poor results. Family gatherings will only magnify the extent of underperformance and some might feel embarrassed to be part of them. “The problem with ability expectations is that children have no control over their ability. Children are born with a certain amount of ability and all they can do is maximise whatever ability they are given,” parenting psychologist expert Jim Taylor advises in a post on psychologytoday.com. “If you want your children to be successful, instead of setting ability and outcome expectations, you should establish effort expectations, over which they have control,” adds Dr Taylor.

About 800 Nigerians seeking to fly from London to their native country for Christmas last year were treated to a rude shock as flights from Gatwick Airport were cancelled. In a case that emphasises the need for early booking, the travellers found themselves spending Christmas at the airport after Nigerian airline Med-View cancelled flights, citing technical problems.

22. Discovering a cheating partner

On Christmas Day 2016, research agency Illicit Encounters revealed that hundreds of married people in the UK flocked various dating platforms to communicate with and arrange dates with people they had met online.

The revelation was a disclosure that, whether in marriage or dating phase, Christmas provides a litmus test for relationships, and on the internet there is a plethora of stories about people who discovered that their partners were unfaithful on Christmas Day. Last Christmas, for instance, a 21-year-old man committed suicide in Kitale Town after quarrelling with his girlfriend due to a man she had interacted with during a show by Ugandan musician Jose Chameleone on Christmas Eve.

Keep an eye on your children, especially in crowded areas.

Keep an eye on your children, especially in crowded areas. PHOTO | FOTOSEARCH

23. Children going missing or being preyed on

Because of the crowding at social places, it is not uncommon for children to wander away from their guardians on Christmas. Also, crooks may want to take advantage of children’s vulnerability. “Children are often seen as soft targets for opportunistic criminals, and this threat is further heightened by the fact that our young ones are home for a prolonged period over the school holidays,” says Mr John Ogutu, a senior operations manager at Securex.

24. Congested recreation spots and stampedes

You are most definitely not the only fan of the spot you plan to visit for your Christmas Day outing. Public beaches in Mombasa have over the years been packed to the brim with merrymakers.

Mr Daniel Costa Francis, the managing director of travel firm Transtrek Safaris, says it is better to visit places like Mombasa during the off-peak season. “You will get value for money. The same amount of money you may be willing to spend in packed hotels and cities can be used for a greater value elsewhere,” he says. With crowding comes the risk of stampedes, as happened on Christmas Day 2015 when a scare arose at Disney World in Florida. People ran in different directions fearing a gun attack, only to learn later that it was a false alarm.

Ensure someone is guarding your property when you are away.

Ensure someone is guarding your property when you are away. PHOTO | FOTOSEARCH

When you are away celebrating with your folks at the countryside, someone could be making away with your possessions.

Businesswoman Hellen Wambui learnt that the hard way. As she closed her salon to go enjoy Christmas in 2015, someone broke into it and stole her items. One Christopher Mutunga Muinde could later be found with some of the stolen items and was sentenced to three years in prison.

Mr Sahni, the Securex CEO, advises people to ensure there is someone keeping guard when they are away.

“Using technology that can be monitored and controlled remotely might help you sleep better while on holiday,” he says.

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