Announcing that Tuesday, December 25, is Christmas is a cliche. Almost everybody knows. To Christians, all over the world, apart from celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ, the day is a special date for feasting and merriment while also being a date for serious religious activity.
They use the opportunity therefore, to reflect on their lives and relationship, particularly as it concerns enthroning peace and showing love to fellow men, which they believe is Christ’s message and essence of coming into the world.
The yuletide, which ushers in the New Year is used by both Christians and non-Christains to engage in various events. In this special package, our reporters captured the essence of Christmas and some of the popular activities that feature within the season, particularly in Nigeria. Excerpt:
IT’S that time of the year again. December has come and with it, all the joys of Christmas. But what is the real meaning of Christmas? Is it the gifts under the trees, the lights in corporate offices and banking environments, the new clothes that had been bought, Jollof rice with turkey, chicken or beef, shared with friends and relations and the shouts of “Merry Christmas” to those who pass us in the streets? Is this really Christmas?
Christmas is an annual festival commemorating the birth of Jesus Christ, observed primarily on December 25 as a religious and cultural celebration among billions of people around the world. It is a single unifying event that transcends cultures and geographical barriers. It is the one tradition that everyone ‘gets,’ regardless of background, status, beliefs, or social standing.
More than just a time to celebrate, Christmas in Nigeria is also a time of re-union. Cities and urban areas empty out as people travel en masse to their villages and hometowns in other parts of the country or even outside the country to celebrate the holidays with family. It is a time when uncles and aunts meet nieces and nephews, when siblings hold each other in long hugs, and sounds of hearty laughter can be heard over a well-laid table of Mama’s cooking.
While some Christians do not celebrate Christmas, others celebrate it on different dates. In Nigeria, it is celebrated every December 25, amidst pomp and pageantry.
For many people, Christmas is a time of sorrow. They don’t have the extra money to buy presents for their children, family, and friends. Many are saddened at Christmas time when they think of their loved ones who will not be able to come home for various reasons. Jollof rice with turkey or chicken may be only a wish and not a reality for some.
Surprisingly, less than one week to this year’s celebration, the usual expectations, preparations, ecstasy and upbeats that usually accompany it are clearly missing in every sense of it.
Instead, the atmosphere is replete with frustration, anxiety, complaints, indifference, lamentations and despondency among Christians. This is due to the gloomy and bleak living conditions occasioned by the country’s economic downturn.
The recession, which came like a bolt from the blues some years back due mainly to fallen crude oil price, has inflicted a lot of pains and misery on most Nigerians. While many companies closed down, those still in operation are struggling to remain in business. There is rising inflation, high cost of living and loss of jobs, even as new jobs are hard to come by. Today, not many families can afford three square meals. This is despite claims by government and its officials that the economy is recovering fast.
With the yuletide around the corner, many Nigerians are in a state of nostalgia of the season known for its fun fare, vacation and elaborate celebrations. It is certain that this year will not follow the traditional pomp and pageantry that is always associated with the yuletide. Many families have struggled to put food on their table, as well as settling the house rents, school fees of their children and wards in private and unity schools and other sundry expenses.
But then, Nigerians love to celebrate. They take every opportunity to break out drinks and dance till their feet hurt, but Christmas celebrations take the cake. So amidst all these challenges occasioned by the economic state of the country, people are still struggling to make the best out of this season.
Speaking on the issue, Mr Obiora Onyekachukwu, a businessman said “even though my children’s school fees for next term is paramount, I am still trying to see if I can manage to buy some of the things we need to travel down to the village. Though it will be different from what it used to be, but I and my family still have to manage what we have to make the best out of this season.
But then Mrs Ifesinachi Cecilia, a widow and a mother of three teenagers said “things are really hard for me and my family this time around. With the children’s school fees which will come earlier than usual, house rent and other compulsory expenses, I cannot begin to think of giving my family an elaborate Christmas celebration. We used to travel down to the village every year, but this year is going to be different. We are going to celebrate Christmas here in Awka. My house had not known peace since I told my children that we would be celebrating Christmas here in Awka, and seriously, I would have loved to take them to the village, but my pocket cannot carry the expenses.
But for Mr Ignatius Igweonu, “Christmas is a yearly celebration, so I don’t see any reason it should meet people unprepared. We Nigerian’s tend to start the preparation for Christmas from the first day of January, each year, and we know that for sure, Christmas is going to come at the appointed date, yet, half of us will still not be prepared for Christmas, even though almost all of us will still want to celebrate Christmas.
“For me, I start from January of every year to prepare for Christmas. I start by saving little money every month for Christmas items. I have an account for that, so that every month, I pay in a constant token into the account. By first week of December of every year, I withdraw the whole money which would have amounted to a reasonable amount of money. With the help of my wife; everything that we will need for Christmas will be taken care of with that money”.
For Mrs Ozoemena, “Christmas day is just like any other day. I don’t see why there should be so much noise for the preparation of a one day event, a yearly event for that matter, not a life time event. Most people will go out of their way to make money so they can purchase some items which they may eventually end up not using. And then, in my solemn moment, I ask, is Christmas worth all these troubles? What is in this day that makes people commit so many atrocities? So many people will spend their house rents, children’s school fees for a day that will break and pass like every other day. I think it is high time people stopped being crazy about Christmas. I am not saying people should not be happy on Christmas day, but for God’s sake, people should spend cautiously, knowing that life continues after Christmas day. Even the Christ that we claim to be celebrating His birth will not be happy seeing what we do to celebrate this day”, she concluded.