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Make This Christmas Count.


Last Sunday I got up late and took to social media as usual. When I glanced at the wall clock it was 10.07 am. Damn! We had just 8 minutes to be in church and I hadn’t even brushed my teeth.

What to do?

With a 30ml bottle of cologne always in the glove compartment, you can gargle Listerine, wash your face and off you go. It is one of the reasons I rarely miss a church service here. Nobody gives a hoot about your creased jacket or dishevelled look. We just assemble at St. Anne Shandon by 10.15 am and the only thing worthy of attention for the next hour or thereabout is to worship God.

But back in Nigeria if you have not ironed your shirt, cut your hair and carved your moustache you will just say the Lord’s prayer in bed with a spiritless promise to attend the evening service.

You see Christianity is a 2 millennia-old religion which only came to Africa less than 2 centuries ago, yet if you just dropped from Mars you could swear that the religion whose adherents constitute a third of the world population originated from Alkebulan. We have added a lot more to the fun and made it more of our own so to speak. And there is no better place to witness all these than in the South East of Nigeria.

Besides the usual tradition of playing out the nativity, exchanging gifts and lots of Christmas carols we have weddings, traditional marriages and other social functions. We even have Santa tossing gifts from a cart pulled by goats. Christmas can be mad fun in eastern Nigeria, especially in your hometown.

Coming from a family which rarely spent Xmas outside Amawbia one can say I‘ve had an overdose of the yuletide in the East. I have spent more festive holidays there than I will probably spend elsewhere and that may also be why many of my friends look puzzled when I say I prefer Xmas ‘in the abroad’. I mean a lot of Igbos can’t imagine December 25th outside Igbo land. One friend narrated how he once decided to spend Xmas in Abuja but ended up feeling so lonely on Christmas day that he packed his stuff and drove down to the East on Boxing day.

Yet one of the best Xmas vacations I’ve had in Nigeria was in 2010 at the gracious Hawthorn Suites Abuja. The ambience and serenity of the hotel, Area 11 and the entire FCT over the period remain an evergreen memory. The suite had everything you needed for comfort including self-catering facilities. The most memorable thing was the goose feather pillows which made waking up before noon herculean for my sleepaholic missus. And since the kids were often left behind with either my mum, sister or sister-in-law she could afford to sleep all she wanted.

Over here it is almost the same with all the shopping madness leading up to Xmas. However, from the 25th it spontaneously transforms into a season of tranquillity and quality time. And if you‘ve been on the grind all year a tranquil celebration over the chaotic traffic and noise can be soothing and refreshing. It also gets you ready and organised to face the challenges of the coming year. So once in a while try spending your Christmas holidays in Obudu, Abuja or even Lagos and you may begin to understand where I am coming from.

Be that as it may, Christmas is truly the most wonderful time of the year and wherever you may find yourself don’t just count the days but make the days count by keeping the reason for the season in view. Help the less privileged. Play with kids. Find some quiet time for reflection and most importantly pray. These are worthy Christ-like virtues.

As for me once the tree is lit up in my home, it means less social media time and more quality time. And it’s been lit for over a week now. So ladies and gentlemen my owners will be taking more of my time from now on.

I wish you a wonderful festive season and a prosperous new year!

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