Christmas is almost here.
Happy new month guys!
I know that most people find that salutation annoying. I certainly do… well most of the time.
But it is the countdown to the most wonderful time of the year if you are a Christian; and also the last month of the year. And most importantly, my birth month. In fact, my birthday is today!!!!
Look, I am very grateful for a lot of things but nothing; absolutely nothing can change that adulthood is a scam.
Christmas was magical for me growing up.
I would stay tuned to the radio once I got home from school. I would start my carol look-out. As in, I was longing to hear the announcement that Christmas was approaching by the playing of carols. I recall being particularly excited when a DJ played a Christmas song before November ended one year.
Another thing also signalled Christmas in my house… greeting cards! The first would always be from an English couple who had lived in Jos for a spell and were friends of the family. They never failed to send cards. My father would bring the card, open it and hand it over to us.
We would place it on the mantelpiece over the defunct fireplace. As the cards would come, we would find spaces on shelves; the old LP container, the TV, the table by the corner of the living room, the Sony cassette player; the Betamax player… cards would be lined up everywhere. Sometimes, we the kids would have to stretch line so we could hang the cards.
Next would be the hampers. And the bags of rice and cartons of oil. There would be so much goodies.
Shopping for our clothes was another fun occasion. New clothes and shoes for everyone.
My kid sister and I were the pair. We always got similar things. I recall my red velvet gown to her royal blue velvet gown. Or the year we had pink straw bonnets.
And then a week to Christmas or so, my mum would buy baskets of tomatoes to be grinded. A cow to be shared with a few neighbours would also appear. There would be plenty of frying… chinchin et al in the open.
There were a set of stones close to the Frangipani tree that were used for these occasions. Firewood, large pots and wide black frying pans. Special cooking spoons would appear and the stew would be made.
A portion of our premises had fir trees. We would cut some for a Christmas tree. It was fantastic to have real Christmas trees but annoying that they would shed so much.
Hence, we would always have to sweep under.
We would make paper chains with old notebooks or newspapers. There was a year we were gifted a sheaf of papers of different neon colours.
We would make a sticky paste with my mother’s ‘lanfu’ or white amala and stick the chains together. I don’t think she ever knew it was her food we were feeding our paper chains with.
The stew for Christmas always tasted different. I have no idea what my mother did. I wish I could ask her. We would try and stay up for midnight but fall asleep.
On Christmas day, we ate rice all day. Rice at home, rice from neighbours… rice and rice and chinchin. It was the only period you could take soft drinks without asking and eat away into the night.
Once it was dark, I would begin to feel sad. I never wanted Christmas to finish and it always took so long to come back.
Fast forward decades later.
What does Christmas mean to me as an adult?
Before the children came, Christmas was just another public holiday. We would stay at home and eat and we did not like going out much because the malls would be crowded.
But when the kids started coming, Christmas started changing. It became something we have to make special for the kids.
My kids begged for the tree to be up by November. I insisted on 1st December.
My husband and I had to sit down and do a budget. We get the kids gifts and place under the tree oyinbo style. Everything is more expensive and we have plenty people to settle. So spending and spending and spending.
Our helps always travel for Christmas so the amount of work that Christmas means to me especially as my kids are under 10 cannot be quantified sef.
I will be marinating the chicken/meat myself. I will do all the cooking… frying chinchin and pandering to special requests. The kids have announced they want fancy doughnuts and burgers Christmas morning.
I will do all the market runs all by myself. I will clean, wash plates and clothes.
Christmas eve, I will do all my prep for the morning. I will then wait for the kids to fall asleep so that I can wrap presents and put them under the tree.
I wake up Christmas morning and it is a cooking spree that takes me into the afternoon. We do not go to church, Also, we let the kids play with their new toys in their pyjamas till afternoon.
In the evening, we take a ride round Lagos to see decorations done around town.
There are very few cards. Maybe one or two hampers.
Usually there is rice and oil from our work places… This year, we are waiting to see with all the border closure.
Christmas is something we do for the children.
Just like our parents did for us.
We watch their excitement and even the sadness when the day is almost over.
We do not get food from neighbours…Nobody wants to give anyone food that they will secretly throw away because in Nigeria, nobody trusts anybody.
I miss truly being friends with neighbours.
I absolutely miss my parents. Also, I miss my siblings who are scattered around the world. It was been well over a decade that we were at the same place for Christmas. I remember our last Christmas together fondly.
Christmas is bitter sweet for me. I miss the childlike excitement. I hate the constant calculating and the fact that we have to factor in January school fees.
But I am very grateful to have a family because holidays can be lonely for those that are alone.
Christmas is what you make of it at the end of the day.
It has been a long year. I hope you find some good cheer as it winds down and I pray we all meet next year to start all over again.