“It’s the most wonderful time of the year
With the kids jingle belling
And everyone telling you be of good cheer
It’s the most wonderful time of the year”
(lyric excerpt from ‘It’s the most Wonderful Time of The Year’ by Andy Williams)
I just LOVE Christmas!
Ever since I migrated to the UK about four Christmases ago, and I had my first Christmas experience in the UK – LOTS of lights, glowing trees, more lights, SNOW, the smell of coffee, lights again, decorations, shopping and shopping and shopping…AH!
Every day should be Christmas!
However, THAT Christmas, as every Christmas since then, always reminds me of one unique blessing – Enjoying the best of both worlds.
Having always celebrated Christmas with my family back in Nigeria, I couldn’t help but notice some unique differences between Christmas in Nigeria and Christmas in the UK. Some of them I found fun, funny, confusing and some others are just… well, unique.
So, here’s the 4-1-1 of what Christmas looks like in Nigeria and in the UK
Winter Vs Harmattan
“What is Winter like in Nigeria?” I have often been asked and my response is always “We don’t get Winter, we get the Harmattan!”
If you are wondering what Harmattan is, see the picture to your right. No! that is not fog (although it is similar). It is very dry and very dusty air (you can taste the sand in your mouth if you take in a gulp of air). It is usually hot during the day and cooler at night but the common factor is the dryness everywhere – the air is dry, the ground is dry, your skin is dry even the water you drink feels dry! During this time, having a moisturiser or an oil-based cream handy is not the fashionable thing to do, it is a necessity.
Not fun at all.
Christmas Presents Vs Food
“Have you started your Christmas shopping yet?”
Someone once asked me this in October to which I replied a bewildered ‘No’
I was confused!
Why would I want to do my Christmas shopping in October? You see in Nigeria when you say you are shopping for Christmas it just means you are going to buy stuff for cooking meals on Christmas day which folks normally do a few days to Christmas (excluding the non-perishable or long lasting food items).
Then on Christmas day, there is lots of cooking – which usually starts out early in the morning, and lots of friends, families, neighbours and sometimes strangers are invited over to eat and drink their hearts out.
We also send out Christmas cards, gift hampers and a few gifts here and there, but that is the exception, not the rule.
However, here in the UK, I have observed that gift giving during Christmas is a big deal and the term ‘Christmas shopping’ refers to primarily buying gifts and presents for friends and family as well as food and other Christmassy stuff. There is also a Christmas ‘list’ involved. This is one of the things I find fun about Christmas in the UK because I like presents (all my dear friends, please take note!). I find it so much fun unwrapping presents and finding all the goodies inside – a 2-week all-expense paid holiday to the Maldives for two, a bottle of Jean Paul Gaultier perfume, fancy Nike shoes, a few pieces of jewellery I’ll probably never wear but would be nice to have… just the simple things.
Family Vs Community
My first-time Christmas day experience in the UK (it took me a while to arrange my thoughts to write that so bear with me) was spent with family in London.
Now, I wasn’t too sure of what I was expecting but my first thought as we left our hotel on Christmas day was “where’s everyone?”
With time, I have discovered that Christmas day in the UK is a more intimate affair, spent with immediate family and close relatives. People get to spend time with and appreciate the people most dear to them. My mum prefers us spending Christmas this way so we start Christmas day quite early (like really, really, early) and usually with prayer, bible reading, hugs and Christmas wishes. Then, the drama begins.
Christmas day in Nigeria is like a circus.
Or a stage play with no script – you can have as many characters, as many scenes and as many intervals as you can imagine (or in some cases CANNOT imagine). There is lots of comings and goings. Lots of meetings and greetings and relatives of every shade – those you know, those you have heard of, those even your parents had no clue existed, those you cannot believe are your kinsmen, those who accompany your relatives (leeches) so you cannot decide what category they belong to, your friends, your friends’ friends and of course your neighbours.
A circus! (a fun one I must say)
Sales Vs More Expensive
The Christmas season in the UK is driven by more sales – buy 2 get one free, 50% off, clearance sales, black Friday, great deals, extra discounts, massive discounts on everything, just buy, buy and buy.
In Nigeria, things get more expensive during Christmas (don’t ask me why because I do not understand it too). So, you go to the market with the eyes of a hawk and pray you are smarter, shrewder, bolder (you need this when you haggle prices, Mmhmm) or just plain richer than the next person.
This one can be fun, funny or confusing, depending on your mood and perspective I guess.
1 Month Vs 1 Week
The Christmas season in the UK is a long affair, sometimes beginning in late November or earlier in some places. The lights go on, the trees go up and the songs start blaring – “Snow is falling all around me children playing having fun…Merry Christmas everyone” (Lyric excerpt from Merry Christmas Everyone by Shakin Stevens – Love it!)
If you did that in Nigeria (start Christmas in November), you are either crazy or on the brink of crazy!
Christmas is one day! At the most, one week! (As one my girls would say)
AH! How can I talk about Christmas in Nigeria and not mention the clothes?
Christmas clothes are a big deal in Nigeria. I was tempted to write ‘for kids’ but that would not be entirely true. This is because irrespective of how short, expensive and stressful Christmas can be (if you are the one doing the cooking), your Christmas clothes need to be sorted before the D-Day. You can either purchase, sew or receive it but it’s an unofficial ‘must’.
Christmas clothes are just new clothes you wear on Christmas day (sorry folks, there’s no science or mystery to it. They are just clothes). And then you go on a ‘parade’ around the neighbourhood – usually in the guise of taking food around to the neighbours or visiting folks to wish them well.
Either way, folks need to ‘see’ your ‘stuff’ (outfit) to appreciate it. So, on you go!
Definitely a unique one.
There is one thing both places have in common, though…
There is no time like Christmas!
Photo credit 1:http://www.aberdeeninvestlivevisit.co.uk/Event723.aspx
Photo credit 2: http://www.theweatheroutlook.com/twoother/twocontent.aspx?type=hpnews&id=2862&title=UK+winter+2015/16+outlook
Photo credit 3: http://www.culture-shocked.com/harmattan-west-africas-dusty-season/
Photo credit 4: http://www.sppage.com/?p=1100