Before, during and even after every Christmas celebration, people all over the world observe certain Christmas traditions that contribute to making the season what it is. Though these traditions originate from different parts of the world, in Nigeria, West Africa, people carry out these traditions with all excitement and many, especially the young generation grow to practice them as though they were original to the Nigerian people.
Four Christmas traditions stand out amongst Nigerians which they practice even until the New Year comes.
1. Christmas Trees
In most cities around Nigeria, people mount Christmas Trees in places like offices, churches, homes and public places. They are colorful and beautifully adorned with ornaments and sparkling bright lights. Christmas trees add colour to the environment and create a mystical and celebratory atmosphere likened to the mood described in the Bible when Jesus was born over 2000 years ago.
History has it that Christians were not the first to celebrate the festive season with trees. Historians trace celebration of trees to pagans in ancient Egypt and Rome who used trees to usher in winter festivals. They believed that the trees could ward off evil spirits. The first recorded Christmas tree was in 1576 which can be found on the keystone sculpture of a private home in Turckheim, Alsace which was then part of Germany but today France.
2. Christmas Cards
The exchange of Christmas cards used to be a huge tradition amongst Nigerians up until the turn of the 21st century when new technologies in telecommunications began to gain prominence and people began to use virtual cards. However people still send cards to friends and loved ones to wish them well and express their love.
The birth of this Christmas tradition was began in Britain in 1843 by Sir Henry Cole who had the idea and his friend John Horsley, who was an artist. Together they designed the first card and went on to print about 1000 more which were sold for 1 shilling each.
3. Santa Claus
Santa Claus, known as Father Christmas, especially amongst children in Nigeria, is believed to have really existed many years ago. He is a character who is thought to deliver presents to well-behaved children on Christmas Eve. In Nigeria parents take their children out during the Christmas season to visit Father Christmas and pay a token to get some of Santa’s special gifts.
Santa Claus is actually a fictional character and the modern day Santa Claus grew out of traditions surrounding the historical Saint Nicholas who was a fourth-century Greek bishop and gift-giver of Myra.
4. Boxing Day
In Nigeria, like most parts of the world, Boxing Day is a holiday which is celebrated the day after Christmas on 26 December. However lovers of the boxing game have taken advantage to the day for the thrills of watching their favourite sport ‘boxing’, while others continue their Christmas celebrations by visiting friends and family. A lot of sporting federations and organisations have taken Boxing Day literally as a day to organise major boxing title matches.
Boxing Day was started in Britain about 800 years ago, when the collection boxes for the poor, commonly known as ‘alms box’, often kept in churches, were traditionally opened so that the contents could be distributed to poor people. It is also seen as a day for giving gifts in boxes.
Story & Pictures – Ihuoma Ukeje