December is always the coldest and driest month of the year in Nigeria, due to the parching dust bearing land-wind called harmattan. In some other part of the world, December is seen as a period of snows falling and a period to create snowballs or a period to shovel the snows from the road, but here in Nigeria, December is a period for lips to crack and for skins to turn white like they had been bathed with bags of cements. Snows do not fall here making our Christmas a snowless celebration. Instead the whole of the country is covered with mist especially in early mornings. Mist spreads all over the earth like smokes hanging on the sky and this makes it difficult to see what’s happening ahead. Everywhere looks dull as dust coats the whole of the earth making everywhere look dirty (but it’s not necessarily dirty). Even flowers lose their beauty because of the dust. In harmattan season, people wear socks on their feet to prevent it from getting dusty. Dust is a major feature of harmattan. Christmas is always celebrated in December so due to all these, Christmas is often dry, cold and dusty. Despite all these features, I love harmattan for I feel it contributes in making Christmas very unique.
To me, December is a time to rest. It’s a time to fall back and relax from the stress of the past eleven months. It’s a season for countless celebrations by various organizations. Many social gatherings throw parties on December to bade the year good bye forever (be it a good year or a bad year). It’s a period of eating and drinking, and a period of so many visitations from families and friends. Maybe, it’s for this reason, people become lazy, even the sun rises late, like it’s been forced out and the moon shine dully in the night, like it’s tired and weary. Sometimes, the moon refuses to shine. At night, the sky looks like it’s weaved up by threads of dust. It becomes grayish and devoid of stars. This makes me think, the heavenly bodies are planning to go on vacation for the holiday (maybe travel) since December is a period of traveling here in Nigeria. I guess it’s a period of traveling because it’s the last month of the year. Many families return back to their states to spend the Christmas holiday with their families and relatives. My family not exempted. We have also decided to travel to Anambra, the state I’m from, to spend the Christmas holiday.
In anticipation to the traveling, my mum and I went to a boutique to shop for new clothes. It’s very essential to shop for clothes on this festive season because traders export the best of clothing materials during this period. December clothings are very unique and of high quality, that’s why it’s a tradition here to get new clothes often tagged as Christmas clothes and to get petroleum jelly named Vaseline to apply on the skin, to make the skin less dry and rough. We also apply Vaseline on our lips to protect it from cracking. Even our hairs become dry and strong like sponges. Petroleum jellies and hair creams are very essential for Christmas celebration or else the dryness will make you very uncomfortable.
As I tagged along the back of my mother in the boutique, I stared at the hustle and bustle of the marketplace through the window. The market place is often crowded as people troop in and out to purchase foodstuffs, clothing materials and fowls (oh yeah! Fowls. Christmas season is the time to slaughter animals especially fowls to prepare delicious meals for Christmas).
I smiled within myself while watching people purchase various items for Christmas. Christmas this year is gonna be wonderful, I thought. I was already drafting out things I’d like to do this Christmas with my family. I had arranged various movies to watch and gifts to give to my friends and relatives but then, something tragic and unexpected happened shattering all my plans and expectations. One morning, during our normal morning devotion, my father got a call from a relative. He bowed his head the moment the call went off. We were confused and wondered what it was that made him react that way. He stared at my mum and shook his head. He then broke the news and that was how we got to hear about the shocking news of my uncle’s death. My uncle, which was my mum’s younger brother, had been a victim of cancer for three years now. He had been admitted to a hospital at India thrice for various operations and he had been responding to treatment. There was a time he and his wife came to visit our family, he looked very strong and healthy. He was even fatter and we were all glad to see that he was getting along well. Everyone thought he was going to make it out of the sickness for he was a strong man and above all, he had immense faith in God. Unfortunately for us all, he gave up the ghost and surrendered into the cold hands of the unsatisfied death.
At first, it felt like a dream, a movie, something unreal. I couldn’t believe it. I thought if I slept and woke up, everything would fall back in place and it would be a nightmare but I’ve been sleeping and waking up to the bitter truth that he’s gone forever. The reality of his death keeps dawning on me each day. I still can’t accept his death. I expected him to live longer.
My uncle (my Santa Claus), chose to leave us on December, a period of celebration, to an unknown land. I call him my Santa Claus become every Christmas, he always dress in a Santa Claus attire (red cap upon red attire, a fake white beard, a ball hidden under his shirt to make his belly protrude). He would dance around just to make us laugh. He loved children but never got the opportunity to have one to call his. His wife had once took in but lost the child in a miscarriage. Those who saw him before his passing away talked about the lingering pain in his eyes and unspoken words in his silence while laying on the hospital bed fighting for life.
I don’t know what my uncle expects of us now. I don’t know who he wants to decorate the christmas tree now that he’s gone or who he wants us to call father christmas. I can still remember how he sang some christmas songs for me and my brothers last Christmas. I guess we’d be singing an elegy for him in return The gay and mirthful season of Christmas has become so gloomy and moody in my house because of his death. My father has called off the traveling, so I’m stuck here at home wondering how my Christmas will be. Will it be joyous and fun like every other Christmas? Or will it be mournful with lips humming an elegy? I’m yet to find out.