Author – Hope Ukaegbu
When Christmas day comes around again this year, we will look out for the new and exciting, in the events of the day, in the people we spend it with and in the presents we are surprised by. In the magic of the day, it is easy to ignore those things we are not surprised by, those traditions that have become typical Christmas experiences for us even though they are just as special as those others we are happily surprised to see.
Let me tell you about my typical Christmas day, which I suspect is similar to many people around this part of West Africa, specifically Nigeria.
In my family, Christmas day is practically “labour day”
We have to wake up very early, yes… but not like the abroad people who wake up excited to see who got them presents and to open them. For my family, there are no present…er definitely nobody looks forward to getting one. In fact, if anybody gets a present, best believe it was given to them by a friend, a lover, a secret admirer or they got it for themselves.
We wake up to do chores…sweep the house, clean up the cobwebs, tidy up the room, fetch plenty of water. And then the main course begins… preparing the meal for the day.
In my family, fried rice is reserved for Christmas day. It doesn’t bother me because I am not a fan of fried rice. It can take a lot of time, energy and resources to prepare. Add to the list, that only one person is available to cook it. Me. And I ain’t finna die young.
So I start with doing justice to the chicken…then fry the ingredients that would be mixed with the rice after I parboil it. And when the rice is ready, the plantain goes into the hot oil boiling on the stove. It is a lot of work. And when I’m done, there would always be a lot in the sink. At that time, I’m working with my Obi (pronounced O bi meaning heart in Igbo language), nothing more.
After all that, I’d join my sister in slicing the cabbages, the cucumber and whatever it takes to make a really good salad. And then, I’d have my bath and come out to find my siblings and maybe a visitor or two, devouring big plates of fried rice, chicken with salad and fried plantain, a few bottles of malt beside them.
I’d quickly run into the kitchen to save a few big chicken pieces for myself.
As soon as I’m done eating and drinking, I’d find out it’s already 3:00pm. The unspoken agreement between everyone in my house on Christmas day is to sleep after a hard day’s job…and groan at every knock on the door that my parents entertain.
I do my best to sleep well in the hope that the next day, I would do the things that I want to without fear of disturbance.