For Blogmas day 18 Awele decided to write about the Christmas traditions in Nigeria and in her family. Read her beautiful story and leave her some love in the comments down below.
CHRISTMAS OF MY GROWING YEARS
Christmas is a big deal for people in most parts of the world and Nigeria as well. The expectations are high, from half of the year and they reach a crescendo around the last quarter of the year.
As a child, my primary school organised a special end of year Christmas programme, which was tagged: ‘ Concert ‘. Pupils looked forward to this event with eagerness because school work would be done with and everyone gets to wear their Sunday best in class. It was a day of eating, drinking and merry-making. Pupils who will partake in the activities of the concert, will be on stage acting, dancing, singing or performing one act or the other.
School celebrations for Christmas over, my father would bundle all his children (my mum followed too) in his car and off we would go to the famous market in Lagos, Balogun market, to buy full attires and accessories for Christmas and Boxing Day.
‘I don’t like this one, Daddy’.
‘This is not my size’.
‘Put this on’.
‘Let’s try another shop’, are some of the statements one could hear in passing.
The year we spend Christmas in Lagos, (where my family is based), we would all dress up in our new clothes to attend Christmas service, getting admiring looks. Christmas breakfast was the whole works, a complete English breakfast of; bread, eggs, butter, sausages, bacon, fish fingers, tea and beverage. Lunch was a big deal too; jollof or fried rice, fried chicken with either diced plantain or salad, soft drinks, cake, fruit juice, wine etc. In the evening, my father would still take us out to a nice place to relax and have fun, even though we were stuffed.
Families in Nigeria normally buy live chickens, a few days before Christmas day and prepare it on Christmas day, when Church service is over. The decorations are not left out, they are brought out from storage and used to keep our spirits gay. Just seeing those decorations in my mind’s eye makes me nostalgic. The cards we get are displayed about in the parlour for everyone to read.
Now, I can’t leave out the Christmas hampers. Those were one of my favorite memories of Christmases I had as a child. My father got them as presents from associates or he bought them himself for the family. I remember them always been full of goodies and my father always got the big baskets. Treats like; chocolates, biscuits, tea, cereal, wine, sweets, juice, ketchup, milk, baked beans, butter, salad cream etc. always made appearances in the baskets.
When it came to the year we had to travel to our hometown, we leave five days to Christmas and preparations were made way ahead of time. Clothes were sorted out and washed, footwear cleaned and packed. We would leave early enough, so we could arrive on time. This was done in order to beat traffic and other travelers. My mum sometimes cooked a meal for the journey, other times, my father would make pit stops at a popular town travelers stop at. This town boasts of restaurants that cook various dishes to fill growling tummies for the remaining part of the trip. Because of this tradition, my brother and I nicknamed the type of rice usually cooked in most of the restaurants there; ‘Ore rice’, after the name of the town. The stew eaten with the rice is really delicious and different.
At this same town, travelers buy a few things for those they are going to meet and this tradition continues till date. These things comprise of; bananas (which are the best in Nigeria in my opinion), bread, walnuts, ‘kpekere’ (thinly sliced and fried plantain), and groundnuts.
Still on the journey, depending on the season, my father would buy bunches of plantain and corn (boiled and/or raw) from roadside sellers for us and my extended family.
The welcoming sign as we enter my hometown always makes my chest swell with pride. It is a case of two friends who haven’t seen each other in a long time.
‘Welcome, friend. You forgot all about me, but I’m always here when you want to visit’, it seems to say.
‘Forgive my absence. I have been caught up in a few things’, I reply.
I wave at it and we are soon in town. We all soak up the new changes we notice weren’t there from our last trip and look forward to an exciting time. My father drives into our family compound and seated right at the entrance of our house, is my now late grandmother, who has been expectantly waiting for us all day. Her dog (also late), barks amidst the flurry of activities of; us going to hug her, exchange of greetings, my uncle and his family coming out to welcome us and our luggage and things we bought been brought out from the car.
Those were really wonderful memories for me because two of the people I hold dear in my heart are no more and the times then were so, so much better than now. My childhood is filled with my best memories and my Christmases as a child are just a part of it.
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