As an Igbo girl, eastern Nigeria is my default Christmas destination. I go right down to my roots, to my Father’s village! I have done this for all my life and I can hardly remember Christmas not spent in the village. I am not alone either, every Christmas, there is a massive exodus of Igbos from the cities down to the east. I join that exodus every year and it is fun. The fun starts with the trip – the mad scramble for bus tickets (for the many who do not have cars), the packing to fit everything that we MUST carry in bags and boots, then of course, the accidental meeting of friends on our way homewards and the mad frenzy to get out of the city before the 25th of December. To sound religious or romantic (whichever) I could say the origin of Igbos travelling home for Christmas is rooted in the bible when Joseph and Mary had to travel to their hometown to be counted but I will be the first to admit right here and now, amaro m. I don’t know why we go to the east, I just know we go to the east and Christmas in the eastern part of Nigeria is fun!
Maybe it’s fun because everybody comes back, those cousins you haven’t seen in ages, those family friends who you haven’t visited in forever in the big city, everybody comes down and its communal living all over again with the beautiful harmattan breeze, burning firewood smell in the air and general laziness that comes with the season setting the mood really nicely for all of us.
Maybe it’s the general laziness that makes it fun, the endless “gists” about anything and everything while we nibble on everything in sight in tranquillity, that could be the reason we all rush back. If not, It could be the ceremonies that make it fun! Because all of us have run away from the hustle and bustle of the different cities and have found ourselves in the east, we fix memorable occasions to coincide with it too and then we jump from one igba nkwu to one birthday to one wedding and another title taking and then a get-together gorging ourselves on lavish food, meeting people, spraying money in the air and “gisting” as we go!
It could be the joy of our grandparents that makes the visit to the east so appealing at christmas. The visits to the nneochies and nnaochies who are ever glad to see us.
There is healthy abi unhealthy competition in the east too, that could be what makes homegoing fun or not so fun, we don’t set out to compete when we get there we just tell stories that drive very scary competition by their very nature “nwanne, I nukwa na Emeka bu G-wagon nata obodo a?”, “Enyi, I makwa na-anyi ga-egbulu umunna efi this Christmas”, “Bia, I fuu Obi? A nu m na o si obodo oyibo nata and o na-eme ofuma” and on and on we go, telling success story after the other and setting scarier higher standards for those who have no stories to tell, wahala!
I personally think it’s the sleep that makes it fun, that very satisfying sleep at the end of a day spent catching up, visiting friends and partying, when you fall into bed with a smile on your face and hug Mama’s wrapper tighter to create a cosy cocoon without the intrusion of the harmattan breeze. Then the mornings when no alarm goes off and you wake up late with thoughts of what next to eat, who next to visit and what to wear for the day’s activities.
I don’t know what makes Christmas in the east so much fun, I just know I am headed that way again this Christmas!