I was a starry eyed young bride, just five weeks married. Days before, my heart had started skipping beats with excitement. It was going to be my first Christmas ever with my husband! My anticipation of the love, joy and bliss was too much to bear. I was gushing, literally walking on air and full of plans on how to make our first Christmas together memorable. Candle lit dinners, (home-made of course) Christmas brunch after church service, a long evening singing carols and watching movies in each others’ arms, nibbling away at cakes, candies, chocolates, ice cream and every other thing the dietician had warned me to keep away from in order not to become a fat and matronly wife. After all, Christmas comes but once in a year, and a first Christmas with a husband must surely be once in a lifetime! Surely, all the rules can and should be broken….
My first hint that all might not be going as meticulously planned by your romantic writer was my Sweetheart’s announcement a week to Christmas that his parents expect us to (not an invite. It sounded more like a command) spend Christmas with them. Wow! What a blow!
The incurable optimist in me rose to the fore and I convinced myself that Christmas could still be fun even at my Parent in law’s. After all they are nice easy going people and I loved them to bits and pieces. Luckily they live in Lagos too, so we took off on Christmas Eve, my hopes and anticipation of a fantastic first Christmas with my sweetheart still intact. Of course I picked a gorgeous outfit for church (after all, all my life, I have had new Christmas outfits) Another gorgeous but understated outfit went into the box. This will be to laze in all day after church and most likely to receive visitors in. Growing up, streams of visitors came and went on Christmas Day to fete with the family. Surely, it must be the same at my in-law’s I thought. I was all ready for my first Christmas as a married woman and loving the feel of it!
My second hint that this dream Christmas may fall short of my expectations was a large white ram tied to a tree behind the house. A ram? All my life, we have celebrated Christmas with the slaughtering of hapless chickens in their numbers. I assumed Rams were meant for Muslim festivals. I consoled myself with the assumption that there must be chickens somewhere around the sprawling compound.
It was Christmas Day! And while many were singing Joy to the World!, my dreams came crashing like Humpty Dumty. I had asked my sister in law the time for church service in a bid to get dressed early. The answer to my question was that the ram would be killed in a short while by someone hired for the purpose and the cooking of the slaughtered ram together with the accompanying jollof rice and ram stew was the sole responsibility of the ladies at home. No caterers! It was not a common phenomenon then, but surely, there were the popular two a dime ‘event chefs’. As if that was not enough, the cooking had to be done with firewood!
My first Christmas as a married woman ended up not with my knight in shining armour, but with a slaughtered ram begging to be cooked, wood that refused to burn and watery eyes that got red and swollen both from smoke and tears of self pity. I escaped to the room midway to weep my eyes out, not for the hard work being done, but out of nostalgia for the many lovely Christmases gone by in my father’s house, for the family traditions that were unintentionally edged in my mind which were once taken for granted but are now precious and rich memories in my treasure bank. Yes I missed home, but I missed more the many peculiar traits, smells, activities and conduct that made Christmas a family event.
Is anyone wondering where my knight was all this while, his reaction to my tears? That is a story for another day. For now, let’s get busy creating memories and filling up the lives of our children and loved ones with warm memories of peculiar traditions that linger for life. Please put in a comment on what your first Christmas with your spouse was like and the Christmas Traditions you look forward to. Joy to the World!