Afro Poetry Times
Short Story – This is Christmas
A short story about Christmas Traditions in the authors family by Nigerian Ufuoma Bakporhe
This Is Christmas
Cold mornings. Dry wind. Dust covering the earth. Dust covering every other thing from shoes to table tops, to chairs, to cars, to shelves, books and everywhere in homes. This was Christmas. The dryness of the air and the smell stuffing nostrils was the smell of Christmas.
The dryness of our chocolate-deep skins causing more consumption of our milky lotions by our skin was the advent of Christmas.
The arrivals of the trucks of poultry—chickens and turkeys on the streets, the rowdiness of the marketplaces, the harmony of hymns and songs from churches, homes, cars and shops was Christmas coming. The buying of new clothes and the wearing of new hairstyles—from packing gels, telephone wires, one million braids—was Christmas.
The delivery of hampers from friends and family, the buying of new shoes, and, the freedom to eat so much until our tummy roared was Christmas. The sound of bangers, knock-outs in the streets was Christmas. The cooking, the
laughter, the love, the decorations was all Christmas. The visitations and the knock of children on the door looking for treats and the joy in answering their knocks and treating them. The outings, the gift-wrapping, the meat-eating and the cake-making was all Christmas for me.
There was and will always be this feeling about Christmas. Christmas was the legitimate time to watch Home Alone and The Santa Claus, A Christmas Carol and a lot of old Christmas movies all over again. Christmas was a different feeling, very different from the rest of the year.
Christmas has always been the best time of the year for me since I was a little girl. Now, twenty years into my life, the excitement is not the same as before yet Christmas is Christmas, and it doesn’t change for me or my family. Being born into a family of six with two sons and two daughters, I remember having this Christmas tradition with my eldest brother. Christmas would never pass without us going out in our open compound in our old house, throwing firecrackers or as we called it, ‘bangard’.
It took me a while to realise we meant banger. Sometimes, my immediate elder brother would join us. We would throw bangers and fireworks into the night. Most eves then, we would stay at home waiting for our parents to come back from the vigil mass in church and that was when we would go outside, shooting bangers and laughing hysterically with Christmas filling up the wells of our eyes and the depths of our hearts.
Before Christmas Eve and on other occasions after Christmas Day, carolers would come from church to our homes to share Christmas with us and they still do. This is my Christmas. We would sing joyously the songs of Christmas in English and even in our native language and the best part was the refreshment that Mum and my aunt would prepare. Sometimes food. Sometimes snacks. Fried meat. Biscuits. Drinks. And I would go about serving the carolers and then settle for my own share afterwards.
The part I loved about Christmas the most was the killing and sharing of the cow and rams which were bought by Dad and his other cooperative members. Every Christmastime, a cow would be brought home, tied to a particular tree that I never got to know its name till today.
The tree with white flowers that we would pick and put on our skewer made of broomsticks. My brothers would leave a bowl of water in the front of the cow or ram while it grazed on the grass. On the morning of Christmas Eve or two days to Christmas, it would be killed and butchered and shared amongst all cooperative members. Big paint buckets, bowls, sack bags holding blood-soaked chunks of meat would be seen everywhere.
Mum would fry some of our meat, roast some, dry some, gift out some and refrigerate some which would last a few months into the New Year. At other times, a friend of dad’s would send a ram or a goat which we would use in making suya¹ or pepper soup.
The decorations of Christmas! It is never later than the 15th of December in my home. Our home would be clothed in Christmas decorations—from the lights to the tree, the gifts, hampers and the cards. There was and still is this brightness that comes with it. And above all else, my mother’s cooking.
Her well-garnished fried rice and fried chicken and the salad properly prepared by her and my sister would make your tongue wet. One thing that is never left out is the Christmas cake. There is no Christmas that passes without a cake. And when I learnt how to bake, it became my duty to bake for Christmas. I loved the duty of creaming lumps of margarine and a spread of granulated sugar into one bowl of a fluffy pale yellow.
I loved pouring in the rest of the mix and finally putting the cake into the oven that my sister would always preheat for me.
Though we are older now, wiser and family dispersed in different parts of the country for school, work and other reasons but every Christmas, we find our way back to the place we call home. We may not have the same
traditions anymore. We may not hold the excitement as much as we did eight to ten years ago but the season remains the best for us. The festivities never die and Christmas never stops being Christmas.
Christmas never changes. It does not matter whether the dryness or the cold comes late, whether that nostrilstuffing smell is absent, whether new clothes or new hairdos or new shoes are no longer the major thing to me Christmas stays Christmas. It may feel different with every year but Christmas is love, and it never goes away. Christmas is my time to love, to smell the air and spread my wings, to laugh into a new year, to drop off everything else. Christmas is my Christmas no matter what changes. It’s the tradition that would never die in my family. Love. This is Christmas.