Sunday Magazine

Why Nigerians are celebrating birth of Christ with special thanksgiving

This year’s Christmas, though will be of low key, yet thanksgiving will take the centre stage as Nigerians celebrate their victory over COVID-19 and other senseless killings in the country. CHIJIOKE IREMEKA reports


For many Nigerian Christians and others who join in the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, this year’s Christmas celebrations will feature more of thanksgiving to God for escaping COVID-19 and wanton killings in the country.


Though the celebration is unconsciously planned to be low key, yet a number of people believe there is something to celebrate, especially life, as the year has been trying, saying that life is worth celebrating as they prepare ahead this Friday. They held that while celebrating the birth and life of Christ on the Christmas, Nigerians who escaped COVID-19 and ENDSARS protest should be thankful to Almighty God for His mercies upon them too.


Mrs. Joy Mba believes that in her modest celebration, God will be at the centre of her family’s celebration as none of her household contracted COVID-19 or got killed during the ENDSARS protest. She said: “I do not know about others, but the reason for celebrating this year’s Christmas, in spite of low income , is to thank God for preserving our lives and souls. The year 2020, is not the type many of us would wish to experience again. “The year also saw the wickedness of our leaders at all levels who preferred to starve us to death and feed their families with our common wealth. God Who sustained us.


So, why will I not show appreciation by celebrating with heart of thanksgiving? “We didn’t work, or sell yet God preserved us. We didn’t collect palliatives yet we survived. Even those who collected the palliatives didn’t eat beyond a month yet we stayed lockdown for six months. Life and God’s sustenance is what I am celebrating during this Christmas.”


To Williams Agha of Aghanwa and Co., every Nigerians seeing the devastation COVID-19 has done in the world and still doing should be most thankful to God for his mercies. “COVID-19 has wrecked havoc in the world but Nigeria didn’t get it this hot. It’s God that fought and still fighting for us because He knows our government do not care about human lives.


Why the country even tried to step up its game is because the virus launched its attack mainly on the rich and ruling class, else nothing would have been done,” he said. He continued: “Go to other countries of the world, even countries with sophisticated health care and facilities, the disease keep killing them in numbers. Who would have believed that America is currently suffering such massive devastation today?


“The United Kingdom with best of the hospitals and pharmaceuticals are dying on the streets and roads. Then, over here in Nigeria, we experienced a few cases and death. If it had entered Nigeria with full strength, the projection of Bill Gates and World Health Organisation would have been a reality.


“They had said that due to the effect of the pandemic, Nigeria and Africa will be picking dead bodies on the roads and streets but God projection is better and for this reason, I expect that everybody who is still alive in Nigeria and seeing all these things should celebrate his/her victory over COVID-19.


A member of Catholic Women’s Organisation (CWO), Funmilayo Aborisade, said celebrating Christmas is an annual ritual in her home with heavy Christmas decorations, adding this year’s celebration will not be less despite dwindling income.


This she insisted is predicated on the fact that God has been with her family in this wearisome year, from COVID-19 to ENDSARS protests, and worsening insecurity. “It’s thanksgiving all the way. Usually, my family goes to church every first Sunday of the year to thank God for His provisions and protection upon us in the previous year.


And like I said, this is year’s own will not be less,” she added. For a father of four, Eugene Ekweozor, he will still do those things that make his children happy on the Christmas Day, starting with new dresses, shoes, wrist watches, plastic eye glasses and Christmas trees and lights among others. He said: “While the celebrations will be low this year, I will still do what I used to do during the Christmas because the children do not understand what we mean by no money. They keep making their demands and their demands are not really outrageous.


“So, those things that make them happy are considered. Going on sightseeing, fun centres and visiting other recreational facilities in the city, are some of the things they enjoy. So, for love sake, I will afford them the luxury of it. “Christmas comes once in a year and since COVID-19 lockdown didn’t allow us celebrate the Easter, I think it’s the time to do the needful. We need to thank God that no life was lost in my family.

This year’s Christmas is worth celebrating.” The General Overseer , Vision of God Bible Church, Festac, Lagos, Rev. Victor Obiora said the reason for the season is not wearing of heavy and expensive clothes but reflecting on the life of Christ, who is the reason for the season. He noted that Christ came to save the mankind and whosoever that will believe in him and do the Will of the Father that sent Him will be saved and have everlasting life.


“The reason is to accept Christ as our Lord and personal Saviour, believe in Him, do God’s Will and live a righteous life. This is the reason Christ was born,” he quipped. According to him, he trained his children in such a way that they don’t ask for or expect Christmas clothes or gift from anybody in his house.


“I make sure I buy them clothes out of season. I don’t want to make Christmas gifts and celebration idols to them. This could make them steal or even do unimaginable things to raise money for clothing during Christmas. “Some people go as far as borrowing money, clothe and even sell their parents belonging just to celebrate Christmas and New Year. The essence of this is to ensure that when there is no money, they will comport themselves in acceptable manners.


“More importantly, spending in the education, is investing in their future. It’s an important priority to me as Christmas will always come. Once they miss the opportunity of sound education at a tender age, it has become a great issue in their lives,” he added. However, Christmas in Nigeria is a time of great joy when families get together and celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ.


. It was learnt that the Christmas season is arguably the most celebrated season in Nigeria, because everyone, even some Muslims living in the north gather to celebrate the Yuletide. People start shopping for Christmas by early December or earlier than that. During Christmas, children expect a new cloth, called a ‘Christmas cloth,’ from their parents.


The new Christmas cloth is what most children, and some parents who still enjoy the tradition, wear on Christmas day. Children then go from house to house in the neighborhood getting Christmas gifts, usually in the form of small amounts of money. Children use most of the money to buy firecrackers, bangers and box of matches with which they make their local bangers.


In this season, many towns and cities in the urban are emptied as most Nigerians who have moved to the cities return to their ancestral villages to be with family and to bless those who are less fortunate. The major gift shared during Christmas in Nigeria is either money or materials and exchanging of Christmas cards. Cooking usually involves all women who are part of the extended family; cooking starts immediately women wake up in the morning.


In a Nigerian home, Nigerian food is always prepared by the woman of the house, or first daughter as tradition permits. Chicken or hen, is traditional food for celebrating Christmas in Nigeria. However, many Igbos, an eastern tribe in Nigeria, kill goat for Christmas.


The goat meat is used to make a special Igbo dish called ‘nkwobi.’ Rather than having desserts and cakes, Nigerians cook a lot of Christmas meals and children usually get extra candies and biscuits. In most villages, neighbours exchange Christmas meals as demonstration of love. In the south, a dish called jollof rice is served with stews of various meats along with boiled beans and fried plantains.


In the North, according Abdullahi Musa, 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 favored in the south) is a pepper soup with fish, goat, or beef, which may also be served with fufu (pounded cassava).


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 softdrink equivalents instead. Music begins again around noon when everyone wakes up and gets ready for Christmas.


Then, everyone eats Christmas meals and has fellowship together. In some villages, masquerades dance around in traditional regalia and move from house to house to get gifts.


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