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Why rich Kikuyu men pay dowry in January

Ndung'u Wa Gathua.
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A traditional Gikuyu dowry ceremony. [Photo/]

You have perhaps heard members of the Kikuyu tribe during their day-to-day conversations say, 'itonga iracagia January' (rich men pay their dowry in January).

January among many Kenyans is a month full of challenges ranging from dry weather, financial constraints to mention but a few. Some even joke that the January usually have more days than any other month of the year.

It is, therefore, seen as a surprise that even after a heavy spending during December festivities, the rich Kikuyu men can still afford to settle their dowries in 'Njaanuary'. 

So, why would these men opt for such a period of the year to show appreciation to their in-laws?

1. Gratitude is often expressed during scarcity. When you give someone something during their neediest moments, they will appreciate even more. And what other time than January for these rich men to pay dowry and get praises and ululations which they are known to like a lot.

2. To earn fame and prestige. It is common sense that if you want to stand out from the rest, you must strive to do things differently. If these rich men were to pay their dowries during the time when everybody else is doing so, they won't have been recognized. 

Therefore, they have distinguished themselves by not 'jumping with common spirits' as William Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice play would have it.

3. To spend less yet be seen as they have spent a lot. Rich people are known to sparingly spend their wealth unlike what many people would expect them to do. By paying dowry on a 'dry' financial month like January, these men will not give a lot but that will be seen as so much as everyone else is in a season of scarcity.

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