The Christmas holiday is that part of the year when everyone is happy to stay off work and enjoy as much as they can. At the end of the year, the Christmas holiday is celebrated both as Christmas day and the New-year day celebration.
Conventionally, Christmas holiday traditions involve the extensive decorations of Christmas trees, Christmas lights and ribbons, etc. In Nigeria and Africa, however, things are slightly different.
Growing up in Nigeria, the Christmas celebration was different from the way we now see it. Christmas holiday traditions were different, some of which have gone extinct today or have been modified over the years.
Like you may have observed, the Christmas holiday celebration was more fun and enjoyable when you were much younger, partly because the responsibilities of adulthood have now blunted out the sweetness of the season and partly because some of the fun childhood Christmas holiday traditions have phased out drastically.
In this post, I am going to show you some Christmas holiday traditions that were popularised by Nigerian children but have gradually started going extinct. Some of these Christmas traditions still exist, however not in the same magnitude as they were previously practised.
Before I begin, let me also state that it is possible that these childhood Christmas traditions may still be present in certain parts of the country to some varying extents.
1. Christmas Balloons Lottery
Balloons add a special feel to the Christmas decorations. These balloons come in different sizes, shapes and colours and special designs can be imprinted on some of them.
It is quite easy to purchase balloons but one of the childhood Christmas traditions that made Christmas even more interesting is the act of paying an amount of money to buy entry into the balloon lottery at any shop where this is available.
In the balloon lottery, you are allowed to select hidden numbers from a card with many circular-cut sections, as if the circles were punctured roundabout but allowed to stay attached to the big paper card. At the outside side of the circles are certain interesting symbols, of animals, etc, and on the inner side which you cannot see, there are numbers that correspond to the balloons of different sizes which are arranged in ascending numbers on a larger paper board usually hanged as a paper calendar.
When children pick any circular slot, the vendor tears out that circle to reveal the number underneath and the number is matched to the numbers of the balloons on the larger paper board.
The fun in this childhood lottery tradition is that you can luckily pick a number that corresponds to a large-sized balloon or one with a unique shape or design. At other times, you may pick the most undesirably small balloon to your disappointment. Most of the time, you can never get the largest balloon as the shop vendor may have removed the number from the card and would later sell it at a higher price.
2. Disco Lights
The term "disco lights" used in this context is a misnomer because they are not actually ''disco lights". Normally, disco lights are coloured lights used in parties that have changing patterns or are programmed to move in certain ways, thus giving the appearance of a splash of coloured lights.
Disco lights were used to refer to a type of firework that consists of a spark-producing coating on one end of a thin rod which when ignited by a match or flame, continues to produce beautiful sparks that appear as flakes or stars until the entire length of the coating is burnt off.
These "disco lights" resemble miniature versions of welding rods used for welding metals together but they have a long slender handle that allows the child to safely handle it while it emits the beautiful sparks. They are best enjoyed at night or in the dark of Christmas or New-year eve.
3. Christmas Knockouts
These come as different names in Nigeria – Knockouts, Bangers, and so on. They are explosive fireworks (firecrackers) that produce a loud noise when ignited. They are sold as long sticks about a finger length and come as single rounds, three rounds or five rounds depending on the number of times each stick would produce a sound. There are longer ones with more rounds and louder sounds but these were not common because they were more expensive.
This Christmas tradition is commoner among older children and never permitted for younger children because of the risk of hazard if not carefully used.
The Christmas holiday tradition of shooting "knockouts" is one of the biggest fun activities for older children during Christmas but it also has the negative effect of being very undesirable among the older population who prefer life to go calmly or who are startled by the loud sound produced by these explosives.
At Christmas, children would save money and spend it entirely on these explosive sticks, this further re-emphasizing how much these meant to children at Christmas.
4. Christmas Houses
This for a fact is one of the most exhilarating Christmas traditions among children but this tradition has phased out very significantly. It usually involves children gathering local building materials, like bamboo sticks, wood and thatch to construct a building where they can have fun at Christmas and throughout the Christmas holiday.
Typically, the house built using these materials would consist of one or more rooms, with doors and sometimes with windows, and what can be used as a chair. Several activities like eating, burning of explosives, singing and displaying balloons can be done inside this small house.
Usually, it takes only about a day or two for this house to be completed and this is due to the concerted efforts by many children groups and these groups can be as many as possible. In some cases, a mini-competition can be established where one group tries to construct a better structure than the other(s). The concerted efforts of working together and the competition established make this tradition one of the most fun activities for children at Christmas.
5. Christmas Outings
What makes Christmas day boring like every regular day is when you refuse to go out. Amusement parks, TV viewing centres, Tourist centres and several other outdoor locations are available to people for visiting at Christmas. This is still being done in the present day but what mainly characterised outings for Children some years ago was the tradition of visiting friends and well-wishers after wearing the special Christmas dress/attire.
This was a major source of income for Children at Christmas because they would receive monetary gifts and food from every house they visited. So, the goal was to visit as many houses as possible and especially target the "high-paying" households where they can be gifted bigger sums of money.
6. Food Galore
In the Western world, Christmas is not complete without a Christmas tree but in Nigeria and Africa, Christmas is not complete without eating food from other households. The tradition involves neighbouring households sharing their prepared special Christmas food and exchanging it with other households in the vicinity. This gave everyone the chance to have varying food choices on Christmas.
Christmas would be like any regular day if you only ate the food you prepared no matter how special it may be, thus making this Christmas tradition one of the best ever practised. This tradition is still being practised to varying extents in different places in Nigeria, however, it has been noticed to have declined significantly from the way it was previously practised.
In this post, you saw some Christmas holiday traditions that make the Christmas celebration much more fun for children. Many of these traditions have declined significantly and for the ones that are still being practised, many of us including you have outgrown them. For example, you won't be thrilled to build a thatched house for Christmas at this age would you? Also, as we grow older, more responsibilities occupy our minds that we only think of Christmas as a time to rest from activities and not to include other unnecessary activities to the list.
If there is any more childhood Christmas holiday tradition that you think I missed, drop it in the comments section below.
On this note, I want to wish you a very merry Christmas celebration and a prosperous New year in advance. May the joy of the season never cease from you and your family. Happy Christmas.