Christmas is sweet in my village
When I think of Christmas, the first that comes to mind is new clothes and shoes, rice, chicken, baptism, stew, much meat, balloons, “bonbon”, brown money and homecoming for those who were out of the village.
One week to Christmas, pigs, goats, fowls, horses, and cows start mourning. Movements to and from Bangem (where women go for shopping) become rampant while quarrels between man and wife are on a daily basis. All these made Christmas very sweet in my.village
How it used to happen in Babubock, my village
The preparations always seemed like Jesus was coming in person. It was a time for “Papa and Mama” to award us for excellence. They always threatened not to buy Christmas dress unless you passed number 1 in the first term exams. And if you did, all the beautiful gifts were yours though even those who failed still got something.
23rd to 24th December
-The “Sweet Girls” bought clothes in different colours, sizes and shapes.
-Plaited all sorts of hairdos; rasta, long and short Greff, hair relaxation and dying.
-Mama and the elder siblings chopped all vegetables; Cabbage. Bitter leaves and okongobong.
-Mama and big sis went for “Last Market”.
-Papa and meeting members slaughtered cows, horses, goats and pigs.
-We the children filled all containers with cooking and drinking water
-We fetched wood too.
-Mama steamed the just-slaughtered beef and dried them on the “khati” (barn)
We usually slept at midnight.
25th December, Christmas Day
–Wake up time was 4 AM
-Papa slaughtered the fowls
– Cooking started
-We continued fetching water
-We bathed, wore new dresses and shoes, ran to church while mom and big sis continued cooking.
All these made the village lively. That’s why almost all the children ran home immediately it was Christmas holiday.
What was so special for the kids?
But there is this one memory I can’t get off my mind so easily. The “Okokoriko” dance with our man-made “Juju” (our local Santa Claus). We waited for this day with everything we got. It was rare to have a peaceful night from 20th to 26th December. The thoughts of Christmas kept us thinking and restless all night. We kept on counting the days and prayed so hard it comes fast. We imagined and planned all day and night how Santa Claus was going to look like
After Holy Mass on Christmas, every child in the village took the upward direction to the school quarter called “Muabwe”, that was where every principal activity in the village happened.
The boys would go behind a house, pick one of their mates, costume him with dry plantain leaves, decorated with yellowish and greenish palm leaves round his waist, head and arms. Of course, he was to be someone who knew how to dance. He was usually handed to another peer to control his movements.
After clothing the Santa Claus, we gathered behind them with so much excitement. We would sing and dance from one house to another starting from the last house in the quarter.
We chanted Christmas songs for our “Juju”
“Okokoriko, oya (2*)
A massa njuju, oya
Njuju don come, oya
Any man charge ei pocket
Sawa sawa don marry today (2*)”
Everyone sang and danced fervently while waiting for the occupants in the house to give us Christmas gifts. They usually ranged from money, balloons, “bonbon”, drinks and many others. The elders were usually very happy when we visited and danced with them.
To those who dashed us anything at the end of the dancing, we would sing this while clapping for them;
“Mami/papa o…. good heart
Mami/papa o…. thank you”
We chanted these words as long as we were in their compound until they could hear from a distance away. And to those who didn’t give anything, we would sing;
“Papa/mama o… bad heart. As many times as possible too.”
We moved from door to door. After singing and dancing, we would gather up somewhere quiet, count all the gifts unanimously and share though not equal but everyone went home satisfied.
After juju dance, what next?
Then, the usual Christmas visiting will start. We ate from house to house. We visited all our aunties and uncles in all the nearby villages and quarters.
“weeeeeh picking them. Only the combination for our belle that day eeeh, na rice, chicken, cabbage, ndolle, plantain, fufu, fish, popcorn, groundnuts, chin – chin.”
But the dominant meal we ate on those occasions was rice and stew with chicken.
You want to see man ei belle di round like size 5 ball, then na so ei mop di shine like person wey I don chop pork. Na picture you want to see? All kind posted for snap. Cameraman too no di help matters.
We also marked the day with our own children’s club during the day.
We would always buy sweets with the money our parents and hosts gave us. Use our teeth to break the strong bonbon put in the plastic filled with water, add some sugar and allow the solution to dissolve. That was our drink. It was sweeter than the juice we have today.
Friends would always come around begging and we could put in the lid of the container and give them to taste or we would show the line they had to drink and end on the container.
Owners of provision stores made lots of profit on Christmas days. We visited their shops severally on those days. And when we did, the game of winning balloons finished our money. We played to win the biggest balloons but usually ended up with the smallest ones.
Time for trouble
After all the enjoyment during the day, the real suffering and aftermath of the eating began at night. While papa and mama are struggling to catch up with friends, We interfered with the urge to visit the toilet. A child could visit the toilet 5 times in one night. To imagine my mom had more than five of us at home.
“Before picking them want to wake up for morning them don weak all with over shit”.
The hangover was too stressful for mama and papa. Its either they are running to the store to buy remedies for running stomach or giving you enema for constipation. 26th and 27th were days for laundry and discussion on what happened on Christmas day 25th for the big girls.
So, am I right to say Christmas always came with added suffering on mama and papa?
However, the new year was never compared to Christmas because almost everything was consumed then.
My childhood memories about Christmas always kept me smiling I cannot put everything here. I felt like sharing with you.
Can you tell us what was unique about yours?