Christianity is undergoing a major resurgence in Nigeria, particularly after the visit of Pope John Paul II in the 1990’s. Many parts of Nigeria like Yoruba and Igbo have a predominant catholic population. Little wonder then that they celebrate Christmas with as much gusto as their American or European counterparts, the onus though is still on the religious significance of the festival and commercialization is just starting to creep its way into Christmas in Nigeria.
Christmas Day is a public holiday and is mainly celebrated in the southern and eastern parts of Nigeria. Almost everyone goes to Church on Christmas Day but Nigerians do have certain customs and traditions that are unique to them.
Weeks before the day, people buy lots of hens, turkeys, goats and cows. Children hover around the beasts, taunting and mostly gawking at them. People start elaborate preparations for the holiday when they travel and exchange gifts. Christmas carols are very popular and they can be heard right from the beginning of December in anticipation of Christmas. Nigerians have some of the most beautiful, original Christmas carols ever.
On Christmas Eve, as per tradition the animals previously purchased are slaughtered, and traditional meals are prepared. In Yorůbáland, such meals usually include Iyan, (pounded yam) eba or amala, served with peppery stewed vegetables. People find themselves eating this same meal three to four times on that day, as they are offered it at every house they visit; and according to Yorůbá customs, it is considered extremely rude to decline food when it is offered. This of course is a throwback from the time that poverty reigned in this country, however, even in these better times, the ghost of the past still lingers and thus customs are carried forward.
The other popular meal consists of rice served with a delicious chicken curry which is very similar to the chicken stew they eat in India. Delicacies such as Moin-Moin (blended black beans) mixed with vegetable oil and diced liver; prawns, chicken, fish and beef too are included in the traditional meal. This dish is generally steamed till its cooked and its delicious. Nigerians enjoy good food and loud music and Christmas is the perfect time for them to indulge in it.
People in Nigeria love decorating their homes with woven or unwoven palm. They also use Christmas trees and Christmas lights for decoration purposes. The festivities are incredible and unlike in western countries, they take place right their on the street. One can see that it is an occasion for the people to escape from the drudgery of their lives and indulge in good food and music, dressed in their best clothes. Perhaps, there is no other festival besides Christmas which is celebrated with such bonhomie in Nigeria. People do everything in a bit to make it more joyous for themselves, their families and even strangers visiting their country.