Christmas Day in Nigeria is a public holiday that is marked by the emptying of towns and cities with excitement in the air. People travel to their respective state or origin to celebrate with their loved ones, it is often a time for family re-union, a time to re-strategize and focus, it is a time to seek the face of God and make new year resolutions and to also bless those less fortunate and general acts of random kindness.
As the towns and cities empty, people jam the West African markets to buy and transport live chickens, goats and cows that will be needed for the Christmas meals. On Christmas Eve, many families will throw Christmas parties that will last all night long, traditional meals are prepared according to the traditions of each region. Rather than having sweets and cakes, Nigerians as a whole tend to prepare various dishes.
In the south, a dish called Jollof rice or fried rice is served with stews of various meats along with fried plantains; in the north, Rice and Stew as well as Tuwon Shinkafa, a rice pudding served with various meat stews, is preferred. An alternative in both regions (but more favoured in the south) is a pepper soup with fish, goat, or beef. Served with this food are an array of mainly alcoholic drinks such as the traditional palm wine or various local and imported beers and wines; children and women may be served locally-made soft-drink equivalents instead.
Many different languages are spoken in Nigeria. In Hausa Happy/Merry Christmas is ‘barka dà Kirsìmatì’; in Yoruba it’s ‘E ku odun, e ku iye’dun’; in Fulani it’s ‘Jabbama be salla Kirismati’; in Igbo (Ibo) ‘E keresimesi Oma’; in Ibibio ‘Idara ukapade isua’ and in Edo it’s ‘Iselogbe’.
Then, on Christmas morning, they go to church to give thanks to God. Homes, restaurants, workplaces and streets are often decorated. Most homes will have an artificial Christmas tree.
Children love to play with firecrackers at Christmas. The church choir may visit the church congregation in their homes to sing Christmas carols to them. Christmas cards are sent to friends and family members. Presents are exchanged amongst family members and some families may take their children dressed in new outfits to see Santa Claus.
In the villages you would be greeted by the numerous masquerade groups formulated by the younger people who gently display their dance moves in exchange for foreign currencies. This dance groups make the Christmas experience soothing and comforting. The young girls also have their dance groups, though without a masquerade but with palm frond tied to their left feet as a sign of bravery. They also make money by displaying their well thought out dance steps.
Gift giving in Nigeria often involves money and the flow of gifts from the more fortunate to the less so. Christmas in Nigeria is a time for celebration and reconnection, the experience is always an unforgettable one. Visitors are welcomed and there is no house that is left without the scent of chickened stew.
Have a Merry Christmas & Happy New Year..