It is Christmas time again and a time for sharing. That was how I grew up to see it. Neighbours cooked and exchanged food with neighbours; children moved from one relative’s or family friend’s house to the other. This enabled them to have a taste of the culinary skills different from their mothers.’ These are no longer common in urban areas, but I hope it still happens in towns and villages where life is more personal and communal.
People also send food items to less financially endowed people, relatives and friends or older family members. That is still very much on. In spite of the economic situation, we are still somewhat our neighbour’s keeper. Sometimes, you get hampers from well wishers, not only people you gave business or patronized. I just got one personalised hamper from an older friend/big brother.
But I want to deal with a different kind of sharing today. There is something innately therapeutic about the “Merry Christmas” wishes we share among ourselves. Earlier in the year, Nigeria came 95th of the 155 countries ranked in the happiest people in the world report. This is not surprising because the level of anger in the land is unnerving. Stand by the roadside and watch motorists as they drive past. Nine out of 10 have stone faces.
The few happy faces you see are rare cases of happy couples, or a man with a woman, who are probably not spouses, or women just chatting away excitedly, etc. Motorists on our roads with genuine motor insurance resolve arguments emanating from accidents with fisticuffs instead of contacting their insurance brokers/companies for financial remedy (Indemnity). On the home front, many spouses are fighting to finish. Some have been permanently deformed or lost their lives in the process. Even in churches, parishioners argue and occasionally fight in the parking lot after Mass/church service, when all that is needed is a little patience.
So, I consider “Happy Christmas” or “Merry Christmas,” not just a wish, but sharing of food for the soul. When you live in a difficult environment like ours, or you are going through a patch that seems to be endless, you need this food for upliftment of the soul because it is very easy to be lost in your world and forget the world out there: Christmas is a couple of days away, yet no money to buy rice, chicken and the ingredients to prepare the meal. You are not even talking about Christmas clothes for the children. Yet barely two weeks after Christmas, schools resume and you are faced with children’s school fees.
Bills and financial commitments are flying at you from all directions, yet the resources to meet these commitments are either coming from one direction in trickles or are not even there. How man no go frown? I fully understand and appreciate our tough environment, but while we all have our individual problems, do not personalise the hardship that pervade the land; also do not wear your problems as you would do clothes. Instead, as you use clothes to cover your nakedness, also use them to cover your challenges, except when dealing with those who might be of help.
Leave your world and step into the world that Christmas represents. God sent his only begotten son, Jesus, via a naïve but obedient virgin, Mary, to take our sins away and reconcile humankind to God. Times might be hard, but the birth of Christ represents joy, peace and hope. Let it be so with you.
It was in 1986 in Mass Communication Department, University of Nigeria; we had spent three months earlier doing the theoretical part of interviewing. It was time for practical and our interviewee was our head of department, Prof. Sylvanus Ekwelie. As we were taught, we asked him towards the end of the interview: “what is your hobby, sir.” “I am a Nigerian,” he answered. We thought he did not hear the question and asked again. Again, he said, “I am a Nigerian.” We all stared at him in bemusement until he resolved the riddle: “Being a Nigerian is enough hobby.”
What is a hobby? “A hobby is a regular activity that is done for enjoyment” (Wikipedia). So let your Nigerianess become a hobby. It is not a very easy thing to do, though. I have lost count of the number of friends and acquaintances who have relocated or relocated their families abroad. Three days ago, another sent me a mail that he was relocating to join his family who had earlier relocated. He had to retire early from a high-paying job to do that.
Tomorrow, another friend is relocating his family. I know he will join them soon because It is not easy for real family men to live far away from their families. Each time I hear of these relocations, I feel very sad. We are reaping the fruits of the seeds we started planting since the late 80s when the brain drain started and it is very difficult to see the efforts we are making to stem it. But for those of us who are still in Nigeria in spite of the difficult times, from the bottom of my heart, I share with you this food for the soul, “Merry Christmas.”
As I was rounding up, I stumbled on a video on social media, which is critical of the celebration of Christmas on December 25, because December 25 used to be a date for celebration of a pagan feast. Here they go again, chasing shadows instead of substance. St. Paul tells us that: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold all things have become new.” December 25 has been rechristened; whatever it used to be is now inconsequential. Anybody who still has an issue with December 25 as Christmas Day can choose another date to celebrate the birth of Christ. It is a free world, but let the rest us be.