Christmas is here again and all across the world, Christians are primed for the annual event that marks the birth of Jesus Christ – The reason for the season.
While some people remain skeptical as to whether the day tagged Christmas (Xmas) is actually the day Jesus was born and many are as yet unable to decide when exactly Xmas Season begins, Christians and non-Christians alike partake In the boisterous (if not the religious) activities that come along with the ambience of Christmas.
Xmas is celebrated differently from one place to the other. People all across the world during this season exchange gifts and buy new clothes, if not for themselves, at least for the children. They visit churches, attend carol concerts and call on Santa Claus (Father Christmas) as part of the Xmas rituals. Special meals are prepared for visiting friends and relatives and everyone seeks pardon for past Mistakes, while they contemplate new-year resolutions In line with the divine nature of the one for whom the Season is celebrated.
From Bethlehem to the Vatican City; from Lagos to London; from Enugu to Akure and Kaduna, Xmas and the activities that follow it had always and will always be different. In Washington D.C, the capital of the United States and surrounding environs, Christmas is a celebration of not only the birth of Christ in the age-long American tradition, but also in the traditions of the various cultures represented in this melting pot of the new world. Here, as usual, Christmas season began on November 23, the day after Thanksgiving. It began at the shopping malls, as people besieged shops as early as six in the morning to buy Xmas gifts at rock bottom prices.
In the American tradition, the shopping which began that day is still on, even though the goods are no longer on sale. True, shopping and Christmas are somewhat synonymous universally, but here other dimensions are often introduced to put Christmas on sale. The Newspapers, Magazines, cable television and the Internet have suddenly become loaded with advertisement urging people to buy! Buy! And buy!
So while people back home in Nigeria are now as usual parts of the Mecca-like crowd at Balogun in Lagos island, and at Alaba-Rago and Alaba International Market, shopping for clothes, ram and perhaps electronic goods to take to the eastern parts of the country as those from that part of Nigeria are wont to do at this time of the year, people here in America are ordering for similar goods on the Internet and charging their credit cards to the limit.
Expectedly, almost all manufacturers and service providers have introduced Christmas gift certificates of varying monetary value so that those that are late In getting a gift for loved ones or undecided as to what to buy, can simply mail the gift certificates to such people who will subsequently use it to get equivalent good or services. It is so cool – the American way.
Another interesting thing is the Christmas tree decoration frenzy. Of course people buy Christmas trees elsewhere and put them at home with the colorful bulbs and cards hanging on them as part of the symbols of the season. But here in the US, it is always taken to a higher level. At Christmas time, environmental concerns about tree cutting pales into insignificance in most American cities as freshly cut trees go on sale for between $20-25 a piece. It has become a common sight during this season to see such trees on the roof cars on American highways as people cart them home.
In America, Santa (or if you like, Father Christmas) is not just a bearded man in red and white outfits handing out gifts to children. He is also the leader of associations with large memberships, leading colorful parades on the street and in shopping malls and donating blankets to the homeless who may be caught in the harsh winter season.
Prominent people like President George Bush and his family attended the 20th annual “Xmas in the City” concert at the National Museum Building in Washington D.C. The event, hosted by Reba McEntire, featured Usher and Tony Bennett, among others, singing Christmas carols. Other concerts addressed the present situation of American life and living. A concert recognized the postal workers who have been exposed to the threat of Anthrax. There was the “Enduring Freedom” carol concert for 700 people at the Ritz Carlton Hotel near the Nigerian embassy. This event was dedicated to the American troops in Afghanistan. Compaq, the computer giant, was there to help families of these soldiers send digital video greetings to their sons and daughters on the battlefields via a special website. There was also the candle light procession of songs inside the remodeled Kennedy center concert hall that featured songs from Nigeria and the West Indies.
Predictably, churches during this period attract more worshippers. The Evangel Cathedral has a way of ushering in the Xmas season and this year, it is staging an elaborate Broadway-style Xmas musical in Washington, Maryland and Virginia. The three-hour tearjerker production costs $200.000. Only in America.
The American Christmas is incomplete without fireworks. The coordinated, colorful displays at designated places (like the parking lot of St. Bernard’s School in Riverdale, Maryland) are nothing like the haphazard and dangerous throwing of “Banger” in Nigeria. Similar to this are the light displays that have become America’s unique way of celebrating the Yuletide. This year, there has been the 14,000 Posen’s light illumination with the words “God Bless America” flashing red, white and blue. There has also been the spectacular 500,000 festival of lights at the Robert Walking regional Park.
Let’s leave the sights for a while and talk some about the smell and taste of Christmas. In this season, food and eating becomes a ritual that people get together to enjoy. The Latino-Americans are stocking-up Corona beers and ingredients to make their chicken broth simmer come Xmas day. The Italian-Americans are also looking forward to the homemade ravioli. Nigerians have besieged the African markets to buy condiments for the pounded yam and egusi soup Xmas lunch.
Christmas is also a time for immigrants to return home from working, studying and “hustling” in America. Airports and seaports are besieged with people carrying cash, cars and loads of ideas to remote villages far away. Many of them are also bearing messages for relations of many who can not return to celebrate Christmas in their countries because they do not have the “correct papers” to go and return.
Finally, Christmas is a season of thanksgiving. Do a quick stock-taking and you will realize that no matter what went wrong this year, there are still reasons to thank God. This is more so for us here in America, who survived the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 and now have to carefully and cautiously open mails bringing Christmas cards from friends. On a final note, I want to wish everyone reading this piece, wherever you may be, a safe and merry Xmas.