The reminiscence of the Christmas before last would not cease to flood my memory like thunderclap. It was my first Christmas in the tropics. More than that, waking up in my continent and sleeping in another on a Christmas day offered me a Christmas in another atmosphere that’s a total departure from all I have ever experienced in my lifetime. I slept awake on Christmas Eve in my humble Ago Iwoye home and for the first time it all looked like was going to be a crossover night into a new year.
At the stroke of 12 at midnight, different colours of fireworks had been set off, all about fanning out against the thick dark background of darkness provided by power outage. One red in particular skyrocketed to the extent that a kid that came to tap me up screamed in ecstasy thinking it was going to hit one of the stars shinning high up. It wasn’t a silent night at all, rather it was like Fuji stars, hip-hop artistes and gospel singers were all sharing the same stage all around us. So it remained till the fade of the dark. I yawned off the dawn, not even remembering when exactly I slept.
While everyone else in the house worked up to go to church, I and my nephew, Seye were set for the airport. We had paid the fat price of flying Virgin Atlantic on such an expensive day to London. As usual, we saw people in their best of attires, those not wearing one wore a smile that reveals the glittering colour of their heart. I won’t forget the striking Arabian outfit of the man sitting beside me in the plane and his words, “it’s a great day and we are all celebrating the birthday of Prophet Isa”.
After an enrapturing one hour, we were emptied into the embrace of the breath-taking warmth in Heathrow Airport. We couldn’t wait to go through the exit that opens to the parking lot magically decorated with slowly moving clouds of many colours. Out there in the grip of the snow, nobody tells you to fly into your thermal wear. The pilot was right, minus six degrees centigrade. “Oh, it’s going to be a real white Christmas!” My Nephew mumbled through his half-clenched shaking jaw.
Our host, my cousin, was already waiting for us and lost no time taking us into the heat of the car where I found out I barely know one out of every ten Christmas songs there are. We drove by real winter trees decorated to assume the ambience, saw some roadside choir singing and then came one shocking sight of my life. Atheists bus with inscription “Sure the first Christmas was bloody, what if Jesus was born so that many babies could die?” I was moved to tears, thinking I was the only one who saw it until my nephew said, “fuck! Did you see that?” and then my cousin just blunted everything by answering, “you haven’t seen anything yet”.
To Hackney, I was thrilled when we went to an underground church for the first time and gave my offering in foreign currency. While my cousin headed to work from church, he handed us over his friend, George – a Nigerian Briton to take us out in another car. Now, everything was about to change.
George was freer with things, dressed in big necklace, baggy saggy jeans and likes to rap his talk. He had been waiting for someone to take out. Half a time, we were heading south London, across Woolwich. First I noticed that the streets were quiet, everyone keeping to self but once in a mileage you see pockets of people trickle out of what looked like monkey shops called churches, most of whom were blacks. The roads were free like a ghost was raking down the city of London, no fireworks, no music but hampers at the doors.
All it took was an hour as we were going to attend a Christmas party in Sussex. This one was called ‘face mask party in the manger’. George picked a cow face, one that was big enough to remind me of the cow we killed at home just yesterday. My nephew picked an ostrich but I didn’t, though the masks were free at a desk called “animask”. I was rather busy looking for a beautiful girl I saw ten minute earlier. I could remember seeing her take one of the face of lamb. But there were so many lambs, of her height and built.
Suddenly we heard a sound of alarm. We rushed out to see people throwing off their costumes with animasks were flying in the air. Security had started checking people out. Just then we saw a clique of guys throwing stones at a Santa like the Harlot in the bible,shouting “stone the Santa”. Awkwardly, one of them was holding a bible. The white touches of the Santa’s beard have turned blood red. How cruel! I still cringe at the way George flew in and threw a fist in the face of the one holding the bible. I never believed he could fight for godly things. While we stood stunned at the sudden turn of events, there was calm and the Santa turned out to be an atheist, found to be giving out pornographic materials to children as Christmas gifts. He was nabbed on his way out as the smell of alcohol all over him gave him away. So people took it out on him by Christmas stoning.
The joy of Christmas didn’t come back to me until much later in the twilight when we went to see a movie showing for the first time at the cinema. Put together, Christmas in the Temperate seemed like you could see the Christ but without the mass, whereas in Nigeria you would see the mass on the street without the Christ. By January 9th when we were leaving, it was like Christmas had just begun.