Growing up Christmas was my favourite time of the year. It meant no school and its accompanying headaches (I absolutely loved this part), waking up late because of the chilly weather, new clothes, and most importantly, travelling to the village to spend Christmas. I was always thrilled by the last part, because travelling to the village was not something we did all the time, and since it was always a full house, having a good time was undeniable.
But it is not just the season that made it so special for my young mind. There was always the option of new clothes. I’m sure everyone else feels this way, but the thought of getting new clothes makes me very giddy. On the day my mom is supposed to go to main market to buy them, I make sure to be on my best behaviour. This was understandable if you have a mother like mine. My mom was very strict, and was the type to buy your clothes based on what she liked. She never wanted to feel like you were telling her what to do or buy for you, and this was always a problem because I never liked any cloth she liked. When we were younger, she would buy matching outfits for my big sister and myself. My sister was especially delighted with those rare show of sibling attachment, but I was never. I hated matching outfits. And not only this, she always made sure to buy gowns with extra length so we wouldn’t outgrow them before the next Christmas. Not minding the fact that our gowns were always too long, or that they came with ridiculous hats and handbags, I was always so excited to wear my new clothes on Christmas morning. It has to be new or there is something wrong. I remember one time my mom bought thrift clothes during Christmas. I wasn’t sure what she was thinking at that time but it legit set off alarm bells in my head. I was scared that particular Christmas was not going to feel like Christmas because of how wretched we’ve suddenly become. And this is not me saying that only poor people wear thrift clothes. Lol.
Then there is the food. I have once argued that rice tastes better on Christmas day than on any other day. So for me, it was a big deal. The only part of the cooking I made sure to involve myself in was helping pluck the chicken. I did this for two reason, first being that I was indirectly securing the intestine once it gets fried, and I needed to make sure I would be given a good part of the meat. Both always worked in my favour though. In those days, we weren’t really bothered about calories and all of that. So on Christmas, I made sure to eat like I was headed for penitentiary detention.
The other good thing was the waka waka. The waka waka was a huge part of Christmas in the village. We would wear our clothes and go from house to house, asking them to “do” Christmas for us. We never accepted food, drinks, or treats. The only thing we took was money. For me, it was never because of the strict warnings never to eat outside to avoid being poisoned, it was because I never trusted eating in those places. A big part of me was always sure that the food would taste horrible, and in turn ruin my taste buds.
Most importantly, there is the congregation of cousins and extended relatives. I was never interested in the latter option as most of the extended relatives were always older and were fond of giving unsolicited advice. But I always looked forward to the annual meeting with my younger relations. This was because we all knew we were rogues under all that city decorum. We raided orchards, spent our little money on firecrackers, and followed masquerades around town. Even though we always came back with torn, dirty clothes looking like haggard beggars, we never hesitated to leave the house and continue from where we stopped the next day.
Finally, there is the firecrackers or in Nigerian-speak, Banger; and the church service on Christmas Eve. It was made crazy by the attempts to run away from miscreants throwing firecrackers on people and the subsequent adrenaline surge while struggling to leave harm’s way.
And even though times have changed and I no longer feel all excited like I used to during Christmas. From time to time, there is still that desire to go back to the good ol’ days when our idea of Christmas was new clothes, rice, and bangers.