This what Christmas means to me: it was going to the early morning mass in the crisp cold morning in my squeaky clean new shoes, my new clothes and sporting a new haircut, usually a ‘punk’, my heart beaming with joy, the cool harmattan breeze bone cold but I didn’t care cos the day held the promise of a great many assortment of food, plenty to drink and a chance to mingle with family and friends.
Christmas was also an opportunity to spend A WHOLE DAY with my dad at home, not having him at work, just him home with us.
At other times, it was about traveling the long distance between the North and the South-east, catching the sights and listening to my dad tell tales of many Christmases past, the country before we were born and how things were so much better. We slept through most of the journey but when we often awoke, we were greeted by so many interesting sights that included but not exclusive to wandering cattle, palatial buildings, houses perched on rocks, ever green sceneries, great expanse of water and fellow travels heading towards or away from our direction but there was no sight better than the Onitsha head bridge; it usually meant that our journey was almost at its end and that we could soon rest our wary, tired butts.
Christmas was often a time to visit our hometown, see relatives who we hadn’t seen in a while or never before, it was always fun to be told how grown I had become by a face that says he remembers when I was born, even though I have never seen him before. I just bury my chin in my chest, as if to protect me from the prying eye this stranger who looks so much like my mom. In the village our cousins would take us to see the sights, scouring the land, go swimming in the colored stream that separates my hometown from the other across the way. It was an opportunity to go see the masquerade that scars us but we go see for the thrill of the chase. I remember it now like it was yesterday; dust filled air, stampeding crowds running in all direction except that of the menacing masquerade with the huge stick in its hand, muttering words only its followers understood. The sound of fireworks (knock out), renting the air; its rancid carbide thick in our nostril, sending everyone scampering for safety, it was chaos but we loved it.
The old folks would of sit together over a keg of palm wine reminiscing about the past; while the kids played in the corner without a worry listening in fascination as they talked of a past filled with war, parties and simplicity of so many things.
Christmas for me was more than just the commemoration of the birth of Christ, it was hearing the choir belt out my entire favorite Christmas songs, and it was a great many things because Christmas represented HAPPINESS. All worries were put aside for the duration of the celebration, as if to say “I will worry later.”
This year when I look around, all I see are sad and forlorn faces, the radio stations do not play the Christmas carols with the vigor and consistency of years past. It is like everybody is collectively mourning what has been a truly tumultuous year. Christmas died in 2016 but maybe it will rise again in 2017.
So here is to 2017.