A magazine for Africans and friends of Africa...Our Voices, Our Vision, Our Culture

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Remembering Christmas
By African Magazine Staff Writer
An Everyday Celebration

By Edinam Oton 

 

This year for the first time in my 46 year-old life I celebrated Christmas-- everyday.

It has not been the gift-buying jamboree compressed in the last two weeks of the year… actually it has never really been that way for me. I’ve generally always been too broke at this time of the year. I shop on the 24th,  a quick stroll to the mall down the street.

About a year ago, I looked myself in the mirror and did not like what I saw. A deceitful arrogant skunk of a human being stared back at me.

Grace is a simple five letter word. In the Christian world its meaning is a powerful evocation of the mercy and glorious nature of the living God embodied in the trinity.

You see it is only by grace that I found myself on my knees in my bathroom floor confessing my sins and asking for help. They say confession is good for the soul. I beg to disagree. True confessions hurt.

Confession means you expose your soul. Your being then becomes a theater in the battle of good and evil. The almighty then unleashes the promised companion to aid you in battle.

What followed in the next several months was a rediscovery of the very essence of grace. Grace was with me every single day as I lurched forward through constant convulsions of pain. Grace thrust human angels upon me to help me in my grief. Cynthia, Yolanda, Nana, Yukita, Charise, Arit, Perthrina, Dowoti, Gbubemi and Nkeruwem were practically a lifeline.

In the midst of my emotional turmoil, my job also became a theater of the absurd. Grace kept me above the fray and pulled me out of a bad situation. In the worst of job markets, I picked up another job in a week.

Gradually my fragile state strengthened. My days became brighter with promise that had always been there. I am thankful every day.

Grace kept the lily in my life.

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What A Merry Christmas! 

Ezinne Ukoha

 Christmas for me has always been more about family time and good food. Making sure there are a certain number of gifts under the Christmas tree has never been my primary concern. But when I moved to the States it became very clear to me that the Christmas season was a time for wishes to come true, but more on a superficial level. Get me this and Buy me that! I couldn’t believe how this society could get so wrapped up with making sure the boxes next to their desired items are systematically checked all the while ignoring their most valued possession – FAMILY. I have to admit that it is hard to ignore the message feeders from the retailers that dutifully use every medium imaginable to lure us into their web causing us to nearly go bankrupt. But I have to say that I never got sucked into the madness. I just wanted my family and friends, a platter of goodies and a good bottle of wine.

About 2 years ago it looked like the long-standing tradition of celebrating my favorite holiday with my parents was about to be put on hiatus. My mom had just been posted to a new job assignment and most likely wouldn’t make it. And my dad was adamant about not leaving her alone. I was understanding but devastated. So I went to Maryland to join my brothers, hoping I could replicate some of the scrumptious dishes my mom was known for. On the train ride there I couldn’t help but imagine the reunion scene I had hoped for; My train pulls up and I gather my belongings and make my way to the street exit, walk out and see the smiling faces of my entire family. Their eyes dancing with joy at the sight of me running towards them with my arms wide open for that long awaited embrace. Before I knew it my train did pull up for real and I had arrived. I still had the residue of my “reunion” smile on my face as I gathered my stuff and got off the train. And as I made my way through the crowd searching for familiar faces, there THEY were. Mom and Dad had made it after all! And as I ran towards them eager for my embrace I knew it was going to be a MERRY CHRSTMAS!   â€¨ 

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O Christmas tree!  

Natalie Goode

Standing 76 feet tall, its red and green lights cast a glow on the nearby buildings around Rockefeller Center. Camera flashes envelope the tree as my older sister and I lock hands, and inch our way closer to get a better view. We squeeze together like two butterballs in over-sized winter coats, wrapped in scarves and hoods, waiting for my mother to take the "perfect Christmas picture," while tourists step in front of our camera and New Yorkers rush past us to finish last minute shopping. After an hour of horizontal and vertical shots that included a variety of poses, I was finally able to swing around and stare at this massive sight that was holding everyone's attention on a blustery winter evening. I gazed at the lights that shimmered on the tree when the winds blew through the branches, and was amazed at how peaceful and celebratory this tree is to the holidays—amid a chaotic background. I was eight at the time, and I still reflect on that memory whenever I take my annual trip to Rockefeller center with my mother and fiancé, and the tree still manages to captivate me with its Christmas charm. It’s comforting to know as much as the world changes in 365 days there is still something that stays the same.  

 

 

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Engugu/Mgbedu

Ebele Chizea

 

My favorite memories of Christmas was set in the village in Nigeria from the time I was about seven to twelve years old. The highlight of those days was standing on dirt roads with cousins and siblings to catch a glimpse of engugu/mgbedu (masquerade) dancing to the chants and instrumental beats of young, shirtless men. The story that went around was that engugu whipped any child who dared to cross his path in the middle of his dance. So whenever we caught a glimpse of the excessively, decorated raffia figure, we ran towards the opposite direction, scared and yet thrilled at the adrenaline rush it created in our system. We often found ourselves returning to taunt him and then running again once he faced our way. We did this until an adult, catching sight of us, sent us home with a stern warning. We got the message often that engugu was not to be messed with. That it was actually a spirit, not a person in a mask.

 

Being in the village also meant going to the most popular church in our new Christmas clothes and shoes. It also meant going to my father's four story house to munch on jollof rice, fried chicken, moi-moi (bean cakes), plantain, pounded yam and vegetable soup and other delicasies. My siblings and I ate a heavily at my father’s house before quickly running to my uncle’s house where a lunch feast for the entire clan was held. There was music, including a game or two of musical chairs for us children, as well as dance competitions, which sometimes came with a little bit of award money from older relatives. By New Year's Day, we had all gained a few pounds, maybe some cash, and stories to keep us laughing the rest of the year.  

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Amaris Moss

Granpa Santa

One of my fondest memories from Christmas is my grandfather, who is about 5 ft tall, dressing up in his red velour track-suit and a Santa hat. He'd decorate the house and once the tree was done, he'd have a drink and cry for a bit, remembering my grandmother who would always make the holidays a grand event for all of us.

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The Fran in Us All

Perthrina Pegus

 When I was about 8 years old, my father bought my sister and I life-size black dolls. Mine was Fran and my sister’s was Lisa. Fran was almost half my height, with dark chocolate skin, and dark brown eyes and Lisa though smaller, was just another baby sister version of Fran. As far as I can recall, we never had any other dolls in the house, and our later years were filled with educational toys, books and encyclopedias. But for all my life, I have loved being a little black girl, sun-bathing religiously in the summer, and weeping for my precious dark skin every winter. I never thought about it until now, but what my father brought me in Fran, were years of believing in myself, in my beauty and in the fact that a skinny black girl like me would matter to people where ever I went. Without him ever knowing, those dolls also purchased a lifelong and deep connection between two sisters, who still joke about Fran and Lisa.

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