Christmas is a big celebration that transcends religious boundaries – that was how I grew up. It was mainly about cooking and sharing meals with neighbours and for children, gift of new cloths.
Rather than sitting round a big table as a family, in my childhood each Christian family cooks meals according to their purse and share with everyone in the neighbourhood. By late evening, everyone would have had plenty to eat even those who are too poor to share food.
Over the years, my mother realises that people loved her gbegiri (bean stew) that goes well with ẹ̀ko (corn meal) with goat meat or fish stew.
The best way to enjoy ẹ̀ko and gbegiri is to make sure ẹ̀ko is still warm, kind of jelly like state, but unlike jelly, lukewarm.
This is what she’s known to do well in the village so for Christmas meal, Mọ́ọ̀mi makes her ẹ̀ko in the wee hour of the morning and gbegiri to follow. By 8am our food is ready to share with neighbours, then off to church at 10am.
Thinking about it now, my mother is competitive in a very weird way – making sure people eat her food first before the law of diminishing returns sets in.
My childhood Christmas gift usually is a new outfit to wear on Christmas Day – that used to be really fun. Regardless of what economy says, wearing a brand new outfit is a dream for many rural families.
I remember one year we got Omolokun (that was the name of the fabric) so cheap that it fades away just by staring at it, well we got new cloths, all good.
The first time I saw a perfectly wrapped Christmas present, I didn’t even want to open it as it was just too perfect. That’s true what they say – you can take a girl from the village… It was a gift from my Ajebutter boss. He said that was very common in his circle in Lagos. Really? why did God dropped me here where no one wraps present was my thought. Oh well.
Being an aunty means I have nephews and nieces asking for nkan odun (Christmas gifts). I dutifully obliged, then it quickly got repetitive over the years. I don’t want to be the Aunty who gives gifts that ended up under the sofa a day later.
A few years a go I read about giving Gifts of Experience somewhere – that spoke to me. I know that if I were to be teenager again and have an Aunty who’s happy to give christmas gift, one thing I’d ask would be to pay for trips to anywhere in Nigeria, just so I get to know my environment.
This is the fourth year that my nephews and nieces get a gift of experience. They travel from Lagos, Oyo and Osun to mainly historical places – the places that have been conveniently removed from school curriculum.
The first year I did most of the work searching for worthy places to visit, since then it was their job and it has received lots of admiration within the family over the years. This year we’ve grown from 5 to ten cousins.
Can I be any cooler than that?
One of my nephews on their day visit to my dad’s farm last year was so impressed seeing a cocoa pod that he insisted on plucking one, brought it to town and took it back to his home in Ibadan. He has seen cocoa pods in books, in passing but not too surprising he has never touched one before and he is 15 years old living in Yoruba land where cocoa is one of our major cash crops.
This wasn’t part of their trips but it turned out to be one of the fine memories he had last year – sometimes, it need not cost a lot of money.