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Happy New Year Everyone! Greetings from the homeland!
This will be the first blog post I’m writing away from base (England). It doesn’t quite feel the same as writing a blog post in my bedroom. If I’m being honest, I like this style of blogging because the memories are fresh and so it’s easy to transcribe it all. Also, there’s just something about sipping some juice (as I don’t really like tea or coffee) and writing a blog post in a hotel room. I really could get used to this!
How it all started…
I had the honor of getting asked to be one of the bridesmaids for my friend’s wedding (@thebrowndancerr). This gave me the reason to decide to travel home to Nigeria. On Christmas eve, I headed to the airport to make my way to Dubai where I boarded a connecting flight to Nigeria. I filmed a vlog which might be going live soon, once I get my head around all the editing. So, I celebrated Christmas on transit in Dubai and in a hotel room. This just got me thinking about how Christmas was typically celebrated growing up in Nigeria and how it is now. Hence this post!
In the ’90s and early 2000s
Growing up in Nigeria, I remember the Christmas holiday and New Year to be very fun times. Check out my “Get to Know Me” post for things you didn’t know about me. I usually had a month’s break from school. Prior to the holidays, there was the exam season and if I’m being honest the outcome of these exams could make or break your holidays. The success of your exams would most likely determine if your mum would buy you a “Christmas dress and shoes and if you’ll get to have a Christmas hairdo”. It also determines how much money you’ll get given by parents as well as relatives and friends who would come to visit.
Few weeks before and up to Christmas eve, people would usually be shopping, going to get their hair done and meal prepping. Christmas decorations were few, of which included basic Christmas lights and most times an artificial Christmas tree, some of which come pre-decorated. What a time saver!
People usually travel to their villages and you get to see most of your cousins and family members that you haven’t seen in a while, just like a family reunion.
On Christmas Day
On Christmas day, Christians would most likely attend church service for an hour or two, (this is when the Christmas dress and shoe are first worn) then come back home to finish off any last-minute food preparations etc. Again, depending on the area in Nigeria that you live, there could be masquerade dances, drumming, whistling, different group choreographed dances, masked men jumping around the rooftops etc. Children also played with “knockout”- this is equivalent to fireworks.
There was always so much to eat and drink. Usually, people go around each other’s houses just eating and eating! You could literally get away with not cooking at all over the Christmas period. People would always call you to eat. The food generally consisted of Nigerian fried rice, Jollof rice, soup with eba (or amala or pounded yam), Nigerian salad, chicken (specially bred and slaughtered for the day), abacha (African salad), pepper soup, isi ewu (goat head), cakes, snacks- chin-chin, puff puff, buns, etc. Drinks included: palm wine, fizzy drinks, juice, zobo (hibiscus drink), kunu (guinea corn drink) etc. Food and drinks are dependent on which part of Nigeria you’re from or live in. The Christmas holiday was still a lot of fun!
I don’t remember ever receiving Christmas gifts aside money. It was a popular thing for children to ask adults for money or go to neighbour’s houses. After you receive all this money, you have to show your parents. Don’t be surprised that some or all of it will eventually be taken by your mum and dad to keep safe for you (mind you that this is at your own risk because you’ll never see it again). This meant that there were no gifts under the Christmas tree and so I never heard rules concerning the ideal time to open up a Christmas present until I travelled to England!
New Year Celebrations
After all the Christmas Day celebrations, New Year’s is next. Most times, people clean and dispose of certain things as there’s this belief that you are not supposed to go into the New Year with leftover food or dirty clothes and dishes etc. On New Year’s Eve, Christians go to church and this is where the countdown happens. The church service doesn’t last long, about 3 hours or so and it’s usually very celebratory, full of singing, clapping and dancing to thank God for giving us the grace to see a New Year. After church service, it’s time for more food and drinks.
In the present era
Celebrating the New Year in present times is not any different than it was while growing up. Things have evolved slightly, I guess. However, most things have remained the same. From my observations from going back to Nigeria every Christmas since 2017, kids still look forward to Christmas clothing and hair. Christians still go to church on Christmas day. The food has remained the same. Masquerades still parade themselves on Christmas day through to the New Year.
In posher areas, the way of life is like in the Western world, where kids expect Christmas decorations and present under the Christmas tree. There are also very beautiful Christmas decorations in the streets of most cities, which I didn’t see while growing up.
The only thing that has changed significantly is the shopping method. Whereas before you go to the market to buy everything that you need. Nowadays, for those who can afford it, there are malls and grocery shops where you could go to for your Christmas shopping. Hence, you get to avoid the constantly scorching sun outside and the mud especially when its raining.
Also, if you know any Nigerians, you will know that most of us love our meat, chicken especially. So, on Christmas and New Year ensure not to miss it! Previously, people go to the market to buy some chicken and then pay someone else or the same vendor to kill, remove the feathers and cut the chicken. Alternatively, one could buy the chicken and then take it home to kill, remove feathers, cut, cook etc. However, in the present times, you could easily go to a cold store or grocery shop to buy some chicken without having to worry about all the process that takes place before its time for you to cook it.
My 2019 Christmas Holiday Timeline
This year I spent most days working Monday to Friday and doing other bits on Saturday and of course, going to church and resting on Sunday. Then press repeat! Until the 20th which was my last day before my holiday. From then on, I spent my days shuffling between airports and hotel rooms.
One week before Christmas: I started shopping for my holiday, most of which I delivered in-store to avoid missing any deliveries. Between the 21st and the 23rd, I was on a rampage of order collections, order returns and packing.
On Christmas Eve: I headed to the airport in the morning to catch my flight to Dubai where I transited for about 4 hours before heading to Lagos, Nigeria.
On Christmas Day: I was so knackered that all I could do was head to my hotel room and slept. Then later in the evening, I went out to experienced the typical Lagos chilling with a live band.
Boxing Day: I got a flight to Asaba, Delta State. Then travelled by road to Anambra State. On the bright side, the journey by road was not a long one, thanks to the driver for taking a shortcut. By evening, I was trying on clothes for my friend’s traditional and church wedding and making amendments to them.
Till New Year’s Eve: both wedding days were a success. On Christmas Eve, I really cannot remember what I did. I think I was sleeping most of the time, playing games and catching up on gist.
“Flexing” period: my flexing period started from Jan. 1st till Jan.10th. If you’re not Nigerian or from certain parts in Africa excuse the slang. “Flexing” is a term used when describing enjoyment, fun or relaxation. During this period, I went to Shoprite in Onitsha on New Year’s Day and I must admit that I have never seen one place packed at the same time in Nigeria. The days following I spent it working on content creation for the blog. I booked photo shoot sessions which took up a few days. I spent the rest of my time doing other stuff like going clothing shopping the average Nigerian way and eating too much ice cream from ColdStone.
My birthday (10th Jan.): It was kind of a lazy day until the nighttime. My friends are I went to Rhapsody Restaurant in Ikeja City Mall. The music and the vibe were just out of this world!
Back to reality: Unfortunately, sometimes good things come to an end. This is the end of this good thing. I returned to my second home, arriving in England on the 12th; in time to start work the next day. Its been almost a week and I’m still trying to adjust back to everything.
If you’re in Nigeria and you require a photoshoot at a reasonable price, you can contact my photographer below. He mostly into wedding and event photography but also does lifestyle shoots.
Contact: @Kodstudios on Instagram
Based: in Lagos but available to commute
Disclaimer: this is not a sponsored post. Some images were taken from Sisi Jemimah.