Christmas Holidays

Nigerians Put Troubles Aside On Christmas

A busy street inside the market in the city of Nsukka, where trading stores flank the road and traders display their wares. (Linus Okechukwu Unah/YJI)

LAFIA, Nasarawa, Nigeria – It’s still two days until Christmas, but the frenzy makes it look like it’s Christmas already.

Christmas is a season millions of Nigerians rave about all the time. They want it to come; they can’t just wait for it; they want to feel it, touch it, smell it and drink it.

It’s a time we forget our troubles, throwing away our worries and fears, snapping out of feeling distraught and instead, embracing happiness and optimism.

The past year has had high and low moments. In 2013, terrorists killed and maimed scores of Nigerians in northern Nigeria. Properties have been destroyed there, too, and our hopes for a country
free from bloodletting, reprisal attacks, incessant political uprisings and brutality are eroding.

You might ask, would we celebrate Christmas joyfully even in the face of adversity?

Yes! Yes we would!

The busy entrance to Ogige Market in the city of Nsukka a few days before Christmas. (Linus Okechukwu Unah/YJI)

We are forgetting everything – our troubles, sorrow, frustrations, losses and anguish – because Christmas is no time for tears and regrets for us. No, it can’t be!

Rather than see regrets and tears, what you see in the faces of millions of Nigerians is joy, appreciation and hope.

I can see smiles tucked away in the corners of the eyes of many people here. The federal government has declared Wednesday and Thursday as public holidays so people can enjoy Christmas Day and Boxing Day.

Christmas means a lot to us. For some it’s a period for reconciliation, assimilation and celebration. For others, it’s a season for traveling, enjoyment, loving, sharing and caring.

For children, they crave new clothes and shoes. They’ve got to look “new” because it’s Christmas.

Children are thrilled to see Santa Claus, known here as Father Christmas.  Without Father Christmas, Christmas might lose the fascination it holds for many children.

For teens, it’s time to latch onto a number of fads: trendy clothes, shoes, partying and trying a slew of new and exciting things.

For some adult males, it’s binge drinking all the way. They’ve got to drink away their sorrow, too.

For girls and ladies, it’s a craze for new, glittering hairstyles – hairstyles that glow in the sun. They, too, have to look “new” for nobody wants to look “old” when everybody is looking new in their own style.

Everything looks exquisite when it’s Christmas, from churches to streets to amusement parks, there is a pristine look everywhere.

In many churches, gorgeous flowers cover the altars and balloons hover inside. Tiny twinkling lights glow on rooftops and designs in varied forms embossed with “Merry Christmas” glitter everywhere.

Many Nigerians are visiting their hometowns to celebrate Christmas. Though their hometown may be lagging in the trappings of modernity, the joy that comes from sharing love and happiness with their extended family cannot be denied.

Nigerians still savor every moment of this festive period regardless of where it is celebrated.

Shoppers entering the market a few days before Christmas in Nsukka. (Linus Okechukwu Unah/YJI)

Iridescent Christmas trees adorn the streets of big cities like Lagos, Abuja, Calabar, Enugu and Ibadan, telling everybody that it’s Christmas, and we must celebrate and let laughter permeate virtually everybody and everything.

Tomorrow, Nigerians will be crowding into churches for Christmas Eve services. The service, which last through midnight, helps us grasp the true essence of Christmas and what is required of us as Christians.

It also encourages goodwill greetings with one another – chants of “Happy Christmas” fill the air in the evening service.

Earlier in the month, Nigerian television and radio presented the annual Christmas service from the National Christian Center in Abuja. This year’s program, “Centenary Christmas Praise,” was special because it coincided with Nigeria’s centennial.

One local delicacy that will be found in virtually every home is boiled white rice and stew. The stew can be one of many varieties: egg, beef or chicken stew, tomato stew, or banga stew, also known as Ofe Akwu in Southeastern Nigeria. It’s prepared with palm fruit oil extract and

That’s also part of what makes Christmas here special – everybody is cooking almost the same thing.

It’s Christmas, and Christmas for us is a time to embrace happiness and appreciation as we rise above our everyday problems.

Happy Christmas in advance!

Linus Okechukwu Unah is a Reporter for Youth Journalism International.

For more YJI stories about Christmas around the globe, check out these links.