Hardship, insecurity dwindling Christmas fun, mood & glamour
By Maria Famakinwa
Happenings around the country have shown that the fun, glamour, and enthusiasm that characterized Christmas celebrations in the 60s to 90s were no longer what are being witnessed nowadays as the jollification that heralds the special celebration is gradually fading away.
Though some claimed that nothing has changed with the Christmas celebration when looking at it from children’s perspective, others argue that judging from the economic situation of the country Christmas celebration is not what it used to be in years past and revealed that it brings back nostalgic feeling off and wished that they could turn back the hand of time.
People in this school of thought blamed the harsh economy, insecurity, and loss of family bonds among others for the dwindling fun of the Christmas celebration.
Going down memory lane, a 68-year-old grandmother, Mrs Modupe Omolayo explained that the Christmas celebration is no longer what it used to be in the 60s. She said “Christmas then was seen as a unique festival as everyone started preparation by September, which we referred to as pre-Christmas season. The closer it was, the more the celebration became thick with different Christmas carols and activities.
“Christmas was taken then as a celebration like no other that everyone prepared seriously for. Things were very cheap then and nobody used the opportunity of the celebration to exploit others unlike what we have now. How I wish we could go back to those years when we celebrated Christmas with ease and genuine love.”
On why the Christmas celebration was not like before, she said that the harsh economy should be blamed. “it is affecting people’s mood. How many Nigerians can feed well not to talk of preparing for Christmas? Rice which is the common food for Christmas is out of the reach of the common man. A rubber of local rice now sells between N1,700 and N1,800 that of foreign rice is above N2000 while chicken is a no-go area. Two days ago, I bought one shawa fish for N600 the amount that I used to buy six shawa fishes because many regarded it as the fish for the poor. It is so frustrating that many are not thinking of Christmas but struggling to find their daily bread.
“I have concluded plans with my family that we will buy fish and “ponmo” and they all agreed. That is the situation we have found ourselves. Fun that characterized Christmas before is dying because people do not have the financial muscle to celebrate elaborately as was the case in the 70s and 80s. I know some whose children are still at home because of school fees. How can such people think of celebrating Christmas? Sincerely speaking, Christmas cannot be like it was since it is not possible to celebrate amidst poverty.”
Sharing a similar sentiment, a retired civil servant, Mr Babawale Ogundipe, also lamented that the Christmas celebration now is devoid of fun, pomp, and pageantry that ushered in the celebration then because of rising cost of living and lack of family bonds.
He said: “Christmas is a time that families come together to wine and dine, but how often do families travel to their villages to celebrate Christmas? Many who plan to celebrate Christmas in their villages are discouraged because of the hike in transportation fares occasioned by subsidy removal. Akure to Ibadan which was N1,500 now N4,000 aside from the money you will spend when you get home. Another factor affecting Christmas celebrations is the lack of trust. Today, nobody trusts anybody again, some cannot even release their children to their parents or siblings for Christmas celebrations which was not so before. The high rate of poverty has turned many into ritualists to survive .
“The issue of insecurity confronting the country is also robbing Christmas celebration of its glamour. One wonders why It is during the festive season that law enforcement agencies deploy more officers to prevent the breakdown of law and order. Social vices which are on the rise when approaching festive period like Christmas hinder the celebration as many people will prefer to stay at home for safety. All these were not the case in the 90s. Another beautiful culture of Christmas celebration that allow you to serve cooked food to your neighbors is also forbidden now because of lack of trust. Before now anybody could go to anybody’s house within the neighborhood and eat to show love that Christmas is preaching but that idea is being misinterpreted today. The excitement and joy that exude within when celebrating Christmas in the past are no longer, being felt,” he said.
A salary earner, Mrs Wura Oduntan, who lamented the increase in the prices of foodstuffs hinted that many would celebrate Christmas in hunger except urgent steps are taken by the government.
The angry woman said: “You cannot buy rice, beans, onions, vegetable oil, meat, fish, even garri that is tagged common man’s food is unaffordable how can people survive in this situation? Christmas celebration today cannot be like before because many are hungry leading to anger. Thank God that ten of us in my workplace started contributing N2000 per month from our salaries that is what we put together to get rice and meat for Christmas. What will now happen to those who have no such opportunity? People are sad because of the poverty level which is killing the celebration,” she said.
Reacting differently, a public servant, Mr Dare Adelusi opined that the Christmas celebration has not lost its fun judging by children’s mood, reactions, and expectations as he observed that adults are those who don’t think much about it because they are overwhelmed by several challenges.
“My children have been talking about the Christmas celebration since October, to them, it is a unique time of the year that is characterized by fun. Children see December as a month free of rigorous academic study due to the holiday. This ordinarily raises their hope of Christmas celebration which to them is a period of merriment. They see Christmas rice as different from the one they have been eating since the beginning of the year. That is to tell you how expectant they are.
“They want to buy new clothes, and shoes and look beautiful on that day which is how they feel Christmas should be celebrated. It is we the parents who want to meet their needs and are not so keen on the celebration. Many parents are thinking beyond the celebration because by January, students would resume and the tuition fee must be paid, aside from payment of house rents and meeting other crucial needs at home.”
On if insecurity is not affecting Christmas celebration, he answered that it is not possible to rule out the state of the nation regarding the security of lives and property as a factor hampering Christmas celebration, but maintained that despite all these challenges, the mood that characterizes the celebration is always unique with different social activities. “There are some events that can only happen when Christmas is around the corner. Go to town now, you will see people decorating their shops, offices, and other recreation centers with colors green and red in anticipation of the much-awaited Christmas day including the public display of Christmas wears, caps, and Christmas trees. All these can only be seen when it is Christmas time and this has been the practice since the 60s. Undermining whatever challenges facing the country, the Christmas season will always be different because it is a unique celebration of life, joy, and love.”
A 20-year-old undergraduate, Mr Sesan Omobayo, who could not hide his joy in anticipation of the coming Christmas celebration said that many of his friends were specially preparing for the day. “I cannot wait to join my friends and family at home. I will travel to meet my parents in Lagos. Already, my sisters told me that there is a special plan for Christmas celebration that the home is already bubbling and I cannot wait to join them.”
When told that the Christmas celebration was said to be better in the 60s-90s compared to now said that he only heard his parents saying it but he could not judge because he was not born then and even at that, he enjoys the celebration now. After all, it changes the mood across the country.
“Even those who were not happy before are now rejoicing because Christmas is coming. It is a celebration that comes with joy, and restores hope to the hopeless. Thank God for a celebration like Christmas.”