THE LAST WEEK OF CHRISTMAS: A sideline story in 2006

On Monday, the 25th day of December, I woke up to the early morning harmattan chills, with my teeth clanking together and my skin as white as Snow White’s. Our neighbors were preparing for church service while Christmas songs blared loudly from their stereo systems. Suddenly, I remembered it was time to set off to my hometown. Some weeks ago, I had discussed the best and most suitable destination to spend the Christmas holiday with my elder brother. After a few days of serious arguments, we finally decided it would be the village; after all, that was the only opportunity to visit home throughout the whole year.Traveling on the bumpy road that leads toward home had always been a bad experience for me. I realized that the solution to this persisting problem was always to keep myself busy; so this time, I loaded songs of different genre into my iPod (omo, this gadget chop my pocket moni no be small) and placed the ear phones firmly over my ears. I guess the trip was better than before!

As we entered our hometown, we could sense Xmas everywhere; the nicely decorated shops, the well dressed kids in their ‘Christmas clothes’, the smell of fresh air and the masquerades trying to scare everyone. All these made one reminisce on the memories of past yuletide seasons. Soon, we beheld the sight of our old uncle, Dee Gregory. He had worked at the railway corporation and always tried to reflect the lifestyle of the colonial masters both in the way he dressed and in the way he spoke. We genuflect on approaching Uncle Gregory and he gushes out the yearly utterance, “You guys have grown so big, welcome!” I shoot a disapproving glance at my elder brother. For God’s sake, we knew we had never added an extra pound since we saw Uncle last. Anyway, we forcefully smile and walk home with him while inquiring about his health, chickens, goats and everyone at home.

On Tuesday, the swooshing sound of the harmattan wind wakes me up yet again. Nobody needed to remind us to cut down the overgrown grasses, clean the hall for kindred meetings and buy some fresh palm wine for the elders. Of course, we’ve been doing these ever since we were young; it’s a pity we didn’t have any sisters to take over the tasks. In the afternoon, we had many visitors and Uncle Gregory called us to say hello each time a visitor came and also to say goodbye when they left. In some cases, we would be summoned to partake in the traditional breaking of kola nuts. In the evening, we finally had an excuse to go visit some friends and eventually chilled at a local bar.

The next day seemed as long as the word ‘Wednesday’ because we had a lot of activities lined up, both tiresome and interesting ones. We visited our mother’s town, watched local matches, and eventually attended the local church bazaar. The church officials mistook us for some rich fellows that came back from ‘overseas’ and called us up to the‘high table’. Thanks to God for eventually providing an opportunity for us to sneak out of the premises undetected (after wining and dining with the rich) without donating a dime.

On Thursday, we literally spent the day resting at home and deliberately didn’t entertain any visitors. But we didn’t miss the ‘custom’ of hanging out with a few friends in the evening. On arriving at the local bar, we discovered a lot had changed at home. Instead of enjoying the tingling taste of palm wine while watching the theatrical displays of the local artistic dancers, we found ourselves watching a bunch of rapper wannabes as we were served bottled beer.

Friday ushered in a new and better day. A friend of Uncle Gregory’s got some bush meat minced into small pieces, together with a local delicacy we’ve never tasted. As it was the custom, the man tasted the meat before anyone else. We waited patiently for any sudden jerky movements and the screams that would follow. Eventually, nothing happened so it was safe for the others to do as he did; we all partook in enjoying the lavish meal.

Saturday was nothing compared to what it would have been in the city; it was just like any other day in the village,characterized by hard work and visitors trooping in to say us well. A lovely lady came to our house in the company of an elderly woman and we all spent the next couple of hours discussing different issues, together with Uncle Gregory. Before they left, uncle (in his sly manner) called the lady aside and did an‘extra introduction’ between the two of us. I understood what the ‘extra introduction’ was all about so I complied by collecting the lady’s mobile number, with the promise of calling her and probably taking ‘it’ to the next level. After all, I was an eligible bachelor and she was single.

On the final day of the year, we all prepared for the traditional ceremony of ushering in the New Year. The kids were busy breaking their piggy banks and buying fireworks with the money, the women were preparing the food and dishes, the kinsmen were holding meetings for the welfare of the kindred clan and the young men were buying the drinks for the ‘ichu-afo’ ceremony. In the evening, the merrymaking commenced amidst fanfare. Enemies rejoiced with friends, mothers hugged stubborn children and fathers shook hands with ‘godless’ sons. The celebration lasted well into the night and at twelve o’clock midnight, the sound of firecrackers, bangers and gunshots were heard in the distance. It was another year.

A few days later, we packed up to leave for the city. Uncle Gregory was at hand to offer an impromptu advice to my brother and I – the type a father usually gives a child he won’t be seeing for long. At that instant, it crossed my mind that a lot of families across the nation would be doing same as we were doing; leaving their respective villages for the city. Soon, the whole villages would be left desolate, like war-torn areas.

I never regretted the time I spent in my hometown. This particular yuletide season could be termed my best because I really came to terms with my people’s tradition. Exposure to the city life at a tender age and the stress associated with work doesn’t allow one time to ponder deep into his roots and traditions. But this special season made it possible for me to do so.

Most Africans do not realize that part of civilization, refinement and development is in coming to terms with their traditional values. A person’s tradition is his, no matter where one finds himself and nobody would perform another’s traditional duties for him. Indifference to one’s traditional values is a never ending character that eats deep into a lot of lives. Someday, the necessity of coming to terms with one’s traditional values would be glaring and obvious to everyone. It is therefore in every individual’s interest to make sure that the day would be a remarkable one.

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