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Familiar story of Yuletide hassles


Xmas-TreeChristmas is here and the frenzies of the season are being felt all around. When we think about Christmas, we see so many pictures of laughing children, ear-piercing firelight, Santa Claus visits and gently falling snow. However, for a great many families, this romantic view of the season is very different from reality.

The holiday season, for many people, is the hardest time of the year, in part, because of the glaring contrast between their experience and the romanticised image of Christmas so often projected.

For millions of families, their struggles to put enough food on the table and pay utility bills are mocked by commercials urging them to buy more and more expensive gifts.

And with the season comes the familiar story of Christmas hassles, which is typified by traffic jams, petty thieving, high cost of goods and transport, and low patronage. The climax of the hassles is the scarcity of petroleum products, which is a hallmark of festive periods in the country. This year, the petrol scarcity has defied all known solutions and has lasted over six weeks.

In recent times, the city of Lagos has been a theatre of the absurd with logjams crisscrossing major roads across the state. The best way to test one’s resilience is to navigate Lagos during this period.
As the long weekend of festivities begins, market men and women have complained of low patronage of their goods and products. The traders mostly attributed the development to the poor economic situation in the country. A trader at Mile 12 market, Mrs. Florence Olaleye, said buyers’ attitude was not encouraging compared to last year. She, however, appealed to government to pay workers’ salaries on time so as to feel the impact of the festivity.

Dealers in textile and allied materials at the Balogun market have also complained of low patronage in spite of preparation for Christmas and New Year festivities. They blamed the low sales on the invasion of the market by Chinese traders. They, therefore, appealed to the Federal Government to introduce measures to enhance the quality of Nigerian-made products.

Mrs. Azeez Kuburat, who deals in textile materials popularly known as Aso-oke, said the cloth, which is indigenous to Nigerians, is now being manufactured by the Chinese. “It is a shame that Chinese produce better quality and varieties of Aso-oke. They claimed they get aids from their home government. We still use crude methods to weave and we need to upgrade our technology to be able to protect our cultural heritage,” she said.

Mrs. Min Zue, a Chinese trader, attributed this to the superior quality of Chinese products and their lower prices. She said Nigerians like cheap things and if there was a little slash in price that was favourable to them, Nigerians were most likely to jump at it. “We make new things everyday. So, if you come to our shop, you will see something new for good prices.”

The lamentation of low patronage is also being expressed by transporters. The parks are unusually not busy as expected because very few people are travelling. Some drivers at Ojota Motor Park said the patronage was low compared to what it used to be in previous years. They claimed the increased fare was not because of the season but rather the high cost of buying petrol.

While one may feel strongly about the hassle of Christmas – costing too much in money, time and stress in the bid to get things done for a befitting yearend celebration, incidentally the very first Christmas was a hassle for Joseph and Mary; the first being Mary’s pregnancy!

Joseph and Mary were engaged but not officially married when Mary learned she “was with child by the Holy Spirit”. Joseph was ready to call the whole thing off until an angel explained the situation. But the hassles are just beginning.

Not long after the wedding, the Emperor determined that every Jewish male should return to his birthplace and pay a new tax, a bill Joseph hadn’t planned on and a trip he hadn’t planned to make. They head out for Bethlehem where they met another hassle; there was no room in the inn. With his wife about to give birth, Joseph settles for the only available accommodation – a stable!

And just when they thought everything was over with, an angel brings a message to Joseph, to take Mary and the baby to Egypt, because King Herod was going to kill the baby.
The nativity story sure makes the hassles of Christmas a familiar story.

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