My childhood Christmases—Naija style

I’ve been living abroad for over 10 years and I can’t say there’s been a Christmas that tops the holiday when I used to celebrate it back home in the Mother Land.

There were no gifts from relatives, friends or even Santa Claus. No Christmas trees either. Still, my childhood Christmases back home were all the rave and filled with traditions that had kids in every corner of the country hyped up for weeks before and after the big day.

For me, Christmas was a lot of fun for a few reasons:

Shopping for foods and other goodies

There was no meat butcher in town my family didn’t know, and no market too small for us to explore for the ingredients we needed for our pepper soup, jollof rice, rice & stew, pounded yam, Nigerian snacks and much more.  I was my sister’s right-hand person during our outings, and Christmas shopping was no different.  Being 10 years older than me, she knew just when to chat a bit longer with the vegetable vendor just to give me enough time to enjoy my frozen yogurt before start to lug our shopping bags through the market again. The anticipation of food shopping with my sister was high because not only did I get spoiled with snacks, candies and all the goodies a kid could imagine, it also meant that I got a few bucks here and there whenever she had change left over.

Shopping for clothes

The most anticipated part of a kid’s Christmas outing in Nigeria is the outfit. Other than birthdays, it’s that time of the year when young boys and girls get decked out in outfits that are 10 times better than their Sunday’s best. I always liked my Christmas dresses. The shopping experience was even better. Whether we bought in town or had it sent from abroad, I always had a say about the type of dress I wanted and my opinion was respected. When we shopped in town, it felt like it was my special day as all the focus was on me, and I wasn’t hauling grocery bags through the market. Instead, I was given candies, soft drinks and others goodies as we’d go from store to store through vendors my sister had close ties with.

Decorating the house

Now, I don’t remember any homes in Nigeria that were decorated on the outside, but many were on the inside. Our house was one of them and it was mainly just the parlor—the living room. Decorating always made the holiday season seem more real and tangible.

Getting together with family

Regardless of the time of year it was, our house was filled with friends and relatives, especially during the Christmas holiday. A busy swinging-door would be a good analogy for it. I was lucky enough that my extended family lived in the same city and one of my aunties’ house wasn’t so far from ours. The grown ups would stay up chatting until the wee hours of the morning while we were forced to go to bed early.

Christmas Eve and the cookout

Christmas came with a bang and it kicked off the cookout—when parents and aunties would start preparing foods for Christmas Day. There was enough food, snacks and Christmas candies around to feed a small village—which we were. This was the time when my jaws would get so tired from chewing fried chicken, which we would eat as snacks. This was also the time when me and my cousins would run around with the neighbourhood kids and start to light up firecrackers as soon as was dark enough. Christmas Eve and Christmas Day were a big deal, way more than New Year’s Eve.

Visiting friends and relatives and getting money!

The ultimate, most exciting part of Christmas Day was getting decked out in my Christmas attire.  This was a complete done up, from head to toe. Back home during Christmas (mostly on Christmas day), young kids visit friends and relatives. At each place they visit, they get fed a lot of food and soft drinks—best of all, they are also given money. A Christmas tradition. The process was simple: get dressed, have a small snack, round up your group and get moving. For the most part, kids organized themselves in small groups of up to five people. This could be a group of kids who are relatives and/or friends. The important thing about forming this group is that the less people the better because at the end of the day the group shares the total amount of money they collected during their outing. And if you have people in your group who are not relatives, that means you’ll have more people/places to visit. During each visit, a single kid could get at least $5 on average and up to $50 or more, depending on the people you visit.

Happy Holidays!

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~ by omonaij on December 2, 2012.

One Response to “My childhood Christmases—Naija style”

  1. […] is huge, it’s a big deal. For me, the countdown to Christmas—and all the events following like ‘the cookout’ or visiting relatives on Christmas day—was much more exciting than New Year’s […]

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