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The Past and Present of Christmas

Apart from being one of the most commercially successful periods of the year in many countries, Christmas brings with it a warm feeling and communal spirit. In this part of the world, it affords millions of people to reconnect with communities they may not have visited during the year.

Beyond these are the pleasant surprises that the season is wont to gift us.

In the end, we come away from all the Christmas feast and merrymaking with memories we can’t but treasure.

In this special Christmas edition, some of Guardian Life’s readers share their fondest Christmas memories.

Uche Okwechime

Uche Okwechime and children at the photo shoot. Photo: Fantastic

As a single mom with three kids – a 16 years old daughter and 14 years old male and female set of twins, it was Christmas alone for us. We had to share our budget into half, one for us and the rest for anyone we felt to give during our touring around Lagos.

Some years back, we would just stay at home, bake cakes, take photos, visit the Zenith Bank light up the world street gathering, eat at restaurants, see a movie or spend two weeks in a nice cosy hotel.

Last year’s Christmas, I wasn’t paid for my training farmers and it was just a few days to the celebration. I was hurt because the kids and I had talked throughout and planned the holiday during my stay at Akure with the farmers but it was all so disappointing afterwards.

On the 25th of December, I got a call from Fantastic, a photographer, telling me that a certain company wanted to feature my family.

We had the best Christmas ever; we literally bought yummy snacks, drinks, cakes and the fun part is that we all had our own customised tops tagged “MO3 Squad”.

Uche Okwechime and kids on Christmas day

The photo sessions were amazing. The kids laughed, and they forgot we had no fund to spend.

Malomo Olubukola Arike

L-R Titi Mrs Malomo Bukola and Ololade

I am currently a third-year student at the University of Lagos. Christmas is a celebration that I always look forward to. Ever since I can recall, I have always spent Christmas with my family.
As a child, the reasons I anticipated Christmas was because of the new clothes, food and the outings. I come from a large family, so the celebration is always grand.

In the spirit of Christmas, my parents invite relatives over; as the saying goes, the more the merrier. My mother cooks in large quantity consisting of fried rice, jollof rice and pounded yam. My family is known for giving people within the compound food including the gatemen. While growing up, on Christmas mornings, we listened to the retro band Bonny M singing every lyric of the song with smiles on our faces. Later in the day we usually had a bonfire in the compound organised by parents, where we play music, dance and also throw firecrackers and rockets.

My family’s plan for this Christmas is to listen to the retro band Bonny M in the morning and watch our all-time favourite movie “Coming To America” while eating.

Olatunji Temitayo Comfort

Growing up, Christmas used to be that time of the year when new clothes, new shoes, events were all I expected. From first term examinations to the end-of-the-year party, Christmas carol in school and church, unwrapping my Christmas gifts to waiting for older people to visit so I can get my Christmas money.

I remember I used to really love listening to Christmas songs, watching videos and going to concerts. The First Noel, Silent Night, Joy to the World, Oh little town of Bethlehem was and remains some of my favourite Christmas songs.

Christmas in Lagos nowadays brings a different mood, it’s a time to get things done before noon to beat the beast called traffic jam.

This Christmas, I actually just want to have adequate rest, evaluate my year, re-strategise, be grateful and stay with my loved ones.

Anita Chinyere-Watson

Anita with her husband, Roy who poses as Santa Claus

I came to Scotland earlier this year to join my husband and have so far experienced a different approach towards Christmas.

Christmas in Aberdeen officially began on the 25th of November with a Christmas parade featuring different Christmas characters like Santa, Elves, Snowmen, Angels and fairies. In the event’s course, the street Christmas lights were turned on, from that day everyone turned on their Christmas lights and hanging Christmas decorations.

The weather is also different from the one I used to know. We experience -1° weather condition. Our Christmas shopping here is also different. Unlike in Nigeria, where we shop for fancy dresses, here we shop for Christmas costumes for the family.

It was fun decorating a Christmas tree with my husband and daughter. Writing and sending cards was a memorable experience for me. The most touching card I got was from my eight months daughter.
Also, the children’s Christmas is magical as they are made to believe the gifts they got on Christmas day are from Santa Claus instead of their parents.

Newton Richards

Christmas for us meant looking forward to new clothes like agbada. We looked forward to visiting our relatives who we knew would give us money. We ended up giving the money to our mum to help us save it and she wouldn’t give us back when we asked. Rather she will ask us if we pay for all the food we eat.

Christmas day is special. There were large chunks of chicken on our plates with large servings of food.

Everyone ate to their heart’s content. But when things were a little tight financially we would share a bottle of Coke with our siblings -two kids to one bottle.

It was quite fun because we always travelled to our hometown to see relatives we hadn’t seen in a long time.

Adeola Jesuye Iyanuoluwa

On the Christmas eve of 2015, the atmosphere was gloomy and it was bound to be a Christmas without mama who had taken ill the week before.

My brother, Jide, woke me up to break the news that our mother had died. My whole heart was filled with despair as I whispered a prayer asking God to bring her back. A prayer I didn’t believe.

We got to the clinic to take our mother’s body away and was pleasantly confused to discover that our mother was actually alive.

The joy that enveloped us was indescribable. We ran to hug mama in a way that almost stifled her.

Mama was not well yet, but she was alive. I got my Christmas gift and it was right on time. Mama was okay and she would live to see Christmas. She would see many more.

For me, this has been the fondest memory of Christmas, a time of reawakened hope and this is a Christmas memory I will forever hold dear.

Amaka Okoli

As a child, Christmas remained a festive season I looked forward to it and wished it never ended.

For me, it was a time to meet with old friends and family members and most remarkably, go to various villages in Anambra to watch masquerade dances. This was for me, the core celebration in the village. We gathered at the square not only to watch their performance but also to show off clothes, hairstyles and social status.

My siblings and I visited houses of our relatives and played extensively with other children, bearing it at the back of our minds that we may not see them in years to come.

But this has not been the same as an adult in Abuja.

Sami Tunji

Like almost every other parent in Nigeria, my father always ensured he got us Christmas clothes. A few days to Christmas, we would go to the market.

Most times, I never got to pick the clothes I wanted. My supervising mother often made the choice. Sometimes, it came with new eyeglasses and toy wristwatches designed to have a cartoon or football theme.

A memorable thing about Christmas is the monetary gifts from family and friends. At a young age (pre-10 years), my mother often collected any monetary gift with the promise to use it to get me something. However, post-10 years, I was often allowed to spend monetary gifts the way I wanted.

Christmas is like a festival of chicken and rice. I remember my father often bought two chickens, which, most times, he killed and prepared for cooking.

For me now, Christmas is about going to the cinemas, sharing gifts, having quality me-time, spending quality time with God and connecting with friends and family.

As a child, I always expected my siblings and relatives, who were not living back home, to return for the festivities. The reason I looked forward to their return was because of the new things they would buy for me.

The house will teem with people and family members who came home from near and far.

I also expected Christmas clothes; two pairs – one for Christmas and one for the New Year day. Then back then there was no compromise, the dress must be two. And then shoes were bought for us. Most of the time, we do not choose our sizes; we went for a larger sizes or smaller size because we had to have it.

The small size was always worn to visit relatives and then on our way back, we would go barefoot. Then the bigger size will be worn the year after when we will have grown into it.

There was an exchange of gifts with relatives and friends. On Christmas morning, we would go to particular homes where the rice would be ready as early as 6 am and eat the first serving for the day.

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