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Another Christmas Without A Christmas

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By Sunny Awhefeada

The world is changing and it is doing so at an alarming rate much to the detriment of humanity. This is even more so and quite frightening in Nigeria. What was familiar a few years ago has become unfamiliar and the things we didn’t know only a year or two ago have come to take centre stage in our lives. Life has become so strange to the extent that we have become so baffled that we are no longer certain of anything. We now live in uncertain times and we live from moment to moment without knowing what the next second holds. The world has become so vague, fleeting, harsh, unfeeling and suffocating. Again, this is more telling in Nigeria. What hangs over us is gloom that makes no allowance for that proverbial glimmer of hope. We are just plodding on without the least inkling of anything redemptive. Our lot remains unenviable even in the season of Christmas that was once anticipated with indescribable joy in our clime. Yes, Christmas once brought us unspeakable joy not only in its spiritual essence of the birth of our savior Jesus Christ, but in the material plenitude and celebrations that attended the season. The harsh beauty of the harmattan season that once dominated the Christmas season made the moment unique in times of old, but not anymore.

We looked forward to the month of December while growing up. The countdown usually began in September the month that began the ember-months. Once August ended and it was September, we would daily count the days remaining for the blissful month of December to arrive. The month was heralded by hot sun which in no time would become mellow and blending with the cold harmattan wind made the climate both harsh and pleasurable. As the days of December come and go, we realize the imminence of Christmas. There would be other events indicating that Christmas was around the corner. The beautiful Christmas carols, the buying of new clothes, mass purchase of food items and other indices portray that it was Christmas season and people always agreed that Christmas was in the air and it was always joyous. Sadly, the foregoing has changed. Christmas in the last ten years has become gloom. What you read below is my reflection on Christmas in 2021. Nothing has changed. The title was “A Christmas without Christmas”. The Christmas of 2022 is thus “another Christmas without Christmas”.

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A new sociology, virulent, irascible, unrelenting and pervasive, is out there attempting to subject our past, including our very recent past, to erasure. The drastic occurrences and, even radical, changes of the last twenty years have turned the world into a strange phenomenon that we suddenly didn’t know. We have become victims of our own tendency to outdo the order of nature. The pursuit of knowledge, advancement in science and technologies and their attendant discoveries have become a double-edged sword dangling over humanity’s feeble neck. The world is changing before our very eyes and we appear so helpless as we watch its ebb and flow trajectory. A new way of life, a novel mode of apprehending reality, a strange path, unknown oddities and other hitherto unimagined tendencies are upon us. Put together, these phenomena are what are being collectively referred to as the new world order. The new loop in all its anticipatory character defies the antics of prophets who have now been displaced by futurologists. So much is giving way that was never anticipated by those who claim to “see” visions of tomorrow.

The Christmas of 2021 is actually a Christmas without a Christmas. This is one of the bizarre phenomena that crept in on humanity. What defined Christmas in my childhood was the celebration, the air of anticipation, the joy and an infectious ambience that enveloped everybody irrespective of religion, class or age. The city and the village had their unforgettable experiences of Christmas. The spirit of joie de vivre was the order of the day. The period known as the ember months usually ushered us into the countdown to Christmas. The first ember month was and still is September. It would come and crawl and crawl into October. Once it was October, our gaze would patiently be fixed on November. It would then inch towards the moment when we would count the remaining days of the month of November on the fingers of our left or right hand.

December announced its presence with carols. Schools, churches, radio and television stations buzzed with beautiful and memorable carols. Such moments denuded our lives of pains and disappointments. The carols would float in the air as we sang along correctly or wrongly! We would also take our first term examinations, the end of which would usher us into Christmas holiday. Gradually, the sun would mellow and lose its biting rays and heat. We would notice a gradual change in the atmosphere manifesting in dust and haze. Then one morning we would wake up to a chilly harmattan and we would know that truly Christmas was around the corner.

Growing up, Christmas meant celebration! It was later in my adult years that I heard “men of God” declaim the idea of Christmas as celebration teaching us with all emphasis that we should focus on the “spiritual essence” of Christmas. Yes, growing up, Christmas was celebration. It was the moment to celebrate the commemoration of the birth of Jesus Christ who came to save the world. And celebration meant new clothes, new shoes as well as other items which define the magnitude of the event. So much went into Christmas and we prepared for it. Good food manifesting in a variety of dishes lined the tables. So were assorted drinks. We visited friends and families, moving from house to house and receiving gifts. Christmas was simply the most colourful moment of the year. It was a moment of suspension and relief from strife, disappointment and other such experiences that are antithetical to beauty and happiness.

The foregoing was not too long ago. Unfortunately, as I look back, it all seems like once upon a time! So much has happened to reconfigure the character of Christmas from conviviality to cold contemplation. The Nigerian economy failed and it has continued to plummet beyond salvaging. The inveterate problem of insecurity arising from abysmal failure of leadership remains a killjoy for Nigerians. Our economy has been so badly managed that poverty has become a way of life here. It is no longer news that Nigeria has become the world poverty capital. Making the poverty more grinding is the harsh reality of double-digit inflation that has taken basic food item off the reach of the masses. There was simply no Christmas for the majority of Nigerians this year. Many workers were last paid five months ago. Many more who lost their jobs as a result of the debilitating economic crisis simply erased the idea of Christmas from their mind.

The unbridled insecurity in the land has also conspired in making the Christmas of 2021 a Christmas without Christmas. The tragedy arising from insecurity daily manifests in deaths, maiming, kidnappings and other such grim occurrences. Terrorists, bandits, kidnappers have turned Nigeria into a battleground. A pervasive atmosphere of fear has replaced the humanizing and inspiring ambience of my childhood. Those inflicting terror on us are not only non-state actors, but also the agents of the State. Soldiers, DSS officials, police and road marshals daily inflict physical and psychological bruises on Nigerians. To venture out of your house has become a risk, although the house is not a sanctuary where your safety is guaranteed.

Many families have lost loved ones across the length and breadth of Nigeria. How would such families celebrate Christmas? The living and the dead are victims in equal measures. How then can victims celebrate? 2021 has been fatal in more ways than can be recounted here. 25th December came and went. It was very much unlike the 25th December of my childhood. There were no chickens to be chased after, rice was not in sight, kitchens were bare and disillusionment hung in the air. Change is here. A neighbour told his children “dis one no be Christmas at all”. He was right. The sad reality of our plight is that there seems to be no hope of any redemptive act in sight. The factors that have accentuated our unenviable plight demand action springing from good thinking, rigorous planning, precision in execution, honesty of purpose and focus. Unfortunately, those who now run and ruin Nigeria score very poorly on such items. They are so bereft of ideas that they see borrowing as the only thing to do. Sadly, they are not even borrowing to build, but to steal. And how can a borrower celebrate Christmas?

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