Remembering Those Christmas Days of Old

Merry Xmas to you all!

Yes, it’s Christmas time and we are all in a joyous mood. That’s the way it should be; though a few minutes ago, I heard the disturbing news of another bomb blasts rocking Abuja and Jos earlier today. Haba, bomb blasts again; on Christmas Day for that matter?!

Anyway, let’s leave that for now. How has it been with you since yesterday, the Xmas eve? Hope you’re fully enjoying yourself. Is this better than last year’s Christmas? How about five years ago? Okay, 10 year ago…15 years…20…30 years ago? E don do, make we stop for 30!

I’m sure you may not remember the specific year(s) but some great memories of previous Christmas Day celebrations must still be lingering in your mind. That’s the way it is with me here too. It simply confirms that we are truly humans. But how am I to be sure you were even born 30 years ago? Giggling!

One thing is certain, though. You probably spent some of your Xmas Day of yesteryears in the village, town, city, or abroad as a ‘butter’ boy or girl.

I’m not from a village; I came from a beautiful town that we proudly call “small London” because of our beautiful weather, most especially at this period of the year. Please don’t let us go into any argument about my town. Trust me, it is not a village. The people in my “small London” are more than 1,000 in number so it cannot be a village. It doesn’t matter if Google Map fails to bring it out on a location search.

In the village (or town), Christmas Day is much more special than the people in the cities see it. In those wonderful days of old, everyone looked forward to Xmas Day right from the month of October. Yes, I mean it. You could be rest assured that people would travel down from the big cities, even from Europe and America, to celebrate Xmas in the village.

That was when you would see village boys queuing up at the blacksmith’s shop to get their rackets ready for Xmas time. Do you know what racket is? Let me simply describe it as what we call banger or knockout these days. It is (was) powered by matches and many households in those days were usually short of matches during the Xmas season; as their boys would have confiscated all the matches in the house for their rackets.

Men, the sounds from rackets could be so deafening! Hardly would you go to the church for Xmas Day service without the pastor appealing to youngsters to stop their racket adventure. Later, the big boys from Lagos and other cities displaced rackets with their imported bangers and fireworks! If you still don’t know what racket is (was), consult any elder nearby. Don’t try to Google it; otherwise your computer will come up with Serena Williams and her lawn tennis racket. That’s not what I’m referring to here.

And talking about those village pastors and churches; they were used to collecting a lot of coins as offerings on Christmas Day church service. As the choir sang and drummed, you could still hear the sound of coins landing graann, graann, graann, in the offering plates – 1 kobo; 5 kobo; 10 kobo etc. The pastors didn’t mind. Though there were higher denomination naira notes in those days, the men of God were quite contented with the coins. Lord, where have all the coins disappeared to? They are not even recognized again by pastors!

For the village girls and boys, Xmas Day was a day of free rice and chicken; something they might not have had the privilege of eating since the last Easter season. That’s it. Rice and chicken were commonly eaten twice a year in the villages – Xmas time and Easter period. And they drank Coke too. Everything was known as “Coke;” be it Pepsi or Mirinda; who knew the difference?

Christmas Day was also a showoff day in the villages and towns of Nigeria. You would see friends, club members, and families buying and wearing the same type of new cloths commonly called “and co.” I guess this means “and company;” as in “Toun and co,” for example. Don’t be surprised that many of the new dresses had pictures, such as Maltex drinks labels, pre-printed on them. Who cared?

What a happy day in the villages and towns of Nigeria. And I want to believe this was the same in the whole of West Africa. I hope the practice still continues till date.

Xmas period was also a period of warnings in the villages. Yes, warnings! That was the period you would find parents warning their teenage daughters to be careful of those guys who had come from Lagos for Xmas celebration. Those guys would arrive in their skinny trousers and Afro hairstyle to lure the young girls to bed. There baits for the girls were their “modern” looks, and the Lagos chocolates and biscuits brought to the village. Be rest assured that many unwanted pregnancies would emerge after the Xmas holidays. Those Lagos guys were called “brother oni sokoto tinrin” (brothers in tiny trousers). You can see from here that skinny jeans and trousers are not a new invention. They were around before; now they are back in town.

Maybe some of your own Christmas Days of old were not actually spent in the village/town. It could have been at Ibadan where you and your friends visited Agodi zoo. There, you had taken pictures of lions, pythons, crocodiles and others. You didn’t have a camera but the zoo cameraman did “wait and get” shots for you at one kobo fee. Is that zoo still there in Ibadan? Are the animals still alive? I’m not sure. Maybe it’s now a case of Eniyan o ribi sun aja n han’run (how can a dog snore when a human being has no place to sleep?). Figure that out.

Still at that big city of Ibadan, you probably went to Queen’s Cinema at Ekotedo to watch Indian films on Christmas Day with your girlfriend. And that your girlfriend probably dressed to kill with her heavily powdered face, Suku hairdo, and her boogie boogie shoes.

Oh, those good old days! My first Indian film experience was actually at that Queen’s Cinema. I went with my cousin, Biodun, of blessed memory. I was shocked to watch an actor cut the other actor’s head to the floor. The head rolled on the floor a few feet away and its owner chased after it; headless. He caught up with the head, grabbed it, and slowly lifted it up to his now empty neck. Pronto! The head was back in its original place and the man started talking again! Just like that?! What a great film to watch on that Christmas Day!

It was also in Ibadan, on a Christmas Eve, that I first saw baby talking and walking like a human being. Our children now call it a doll; we used to call it baby in those days. Ever heard of Baby Kingsway before? That’s what I’m talking about. It happened at Kingsway Stores, Ibadan! What has become of that store today? Your guess is as good as mine.

Don’t even mention Lagos. That’s a different kettle of fish. I can guess you went to National Theatre on a Christmas Day to watch Baba Sala’s Orun Mooru film. That was where everyone went on a Christmas Day in those days. There was nothing like home video or Nollywood at that time. What a shame, I heard some bad guys later stole that popular Orun Mooru film by that multi-talented grandfather of film making. Too bad! The stealing act still continues till today in the name of piracy. God help this country.

Apart from National Theatre, Lagos also had Pen Cinema in the Agege area. That Cinema has now become an eatery shop, and each time I pass through the place I remember those big posters that used to adorn the front of the Cinema. You would see a heavily-built American man looking every bit a warrior. He would have a big gun on his shoulder with many of his dead victims at his feet. Something would tell you that “this film will be very interesting,” only for you to enter Pen Cinema, watch the film, and notice to your dismay that our dangerous-looking actor failed to fire a single shot throughout the duration of the film. Call it “film wayo” or “American deceit,” you will be right. And people never forgot to enter Pen Cinema with a loaf of the good old Agege bread and sardine. Where are all those these days?

As a Lagosian, cast your mind back to those King Sunny Ade’s shows at NTA Channel 7 or Lagos Weekend Television. Remember the Lekki Sun Splash that came later. Don’t forget Sunday Rendezvous; just as today is Christmas Day and a Sunday.

How about the popular Lagos Bar Beach on a Christmas Day? Thank God I’m now seeing people in that beach again after a long time. But the beach is no longer the way it used to be.

Things have really changed. Guys and gals now talk about Silverbird Cinema; not Pen Cinema. It is now Shoprite, not Kingsway Stores. But they still wear skinny jeans. I saw them on my way from church this afternoon. They also wear Afro hairstyle these days, as in those days. They sag these days – even on a Christmas Day! I don’t think that craziness existed in those days.

In those days, your telephone line was very busy on a Christmas Day. And it was a NITEL land line. There was nothing like GSM then. Many would call, and your family would phone others. All of you would be shouting “Merry Xmas!” to one another. Today, it is Blackberry, Facebook, and Twitter. Where has your NITEL landline disappeared to?

One more thing, NIPOST would have been busy over the past two days or so sorting out various Xmas cards sent by post. Now, it is the era of text messages and emails. One thing that is conspicuously missing is that personal touch of old. You can’t see the feeling as you used to. Yes, nice words and pictures are now being used in those electronic messages; but you can’t see the heart of the writer. You can’t feel the handwriting. You can’t smell his pen’s ink any longer. Too bad!

The younger ones of today can’t understand what you had enjoyed in the past. How do you explain to a Lagos girl that yams do not grow on a tree? My father had that herculean task some years back. His grand-daughter couldn’t understand the theory of planting and harvesting. And that was about ten years ago when things were not as “techy” as they are today.

If you have any nostalgic feeling about your past Xmas Day celebrations, your case could be like that of a particular man I read about at a time. This man used to work in a farm, and each time a plane flew over his head he would stop, look up, and wish he was in that flying object. The man later became wealthy and had to contend with all the stress associated with a business tycoon. So, each time he flew in his private jet he would look down from the window and remember his days in the farm where he hadn’t so much stress. He would then wish he was in the farm like all the smiling farmers down there, and not in his new pressure-soaked life of a rich man.

Whatever your case may be today, savor those great memories of Old Christmas Days. As they pray in our churches in Lagos, “May no problem send you back to your village (Amen!).”

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1 comment on “Remembering Those Christmas Days of Old”

  1. xmas season then is fun has you explain,but we are still enjoying xmas in our own way now.but i pity all the younger generation o.because if the government did not find solution to all these bombing issue,xmas may be rigid off.but i pray for these generation and generation to come that we all enjoy a glorious xmas season wonder the bible says at the last days perilous times shall…2tim3:1-6

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