Globally, Christmas Day is a special day for the Christian faithful. It is set aside to commemorate the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ. So, annually Christians look up to the celebration of the nativity with greatexpectations and enthusiasm. While some Christians don’t celebrate Christmas, others celebrate it on different dates. In Nigeria, it is celebrated every December 25, amidst pomp and pageantry.
Surprisingly, almost two weeks to this year’s celebration, the usual expectations, preparations, ecstasy and upbeats that usually accompany it are clearly missing in the air.
Instead, the atmosphere is that of frustration, anxiety, complaints, indifference, lamentations, and despondency among the Christian faithful. This is because of the gloomy and bleak living conditions occasioned by the country’s economic recession.
The recession, which came like a bolt from the blues due to several factors, including the sudden crash in the price of crude oil, has inflicted a lot of pains and misery in several homes in Nigeria today.
While many companies have closed down, those still in operation are struggling to remain afloat. There is rising inflation, cost of living is high and people are losing jobs, while new jobs are not being created. Today, not many families can afford three square meals.
Speaking to The Guardian on his preparation for this year’s Christmas celebration, Mr. Chuk Agwunda, a Lagos-based clergyman said: “Since I was born, I have never witnessed this kind of economic hardship in Nigeria. It is too tough for people to the extent that people are doing unusual things to survive.
“While we need to be prayerful, there is also the need for us to live within our income. We should not be so desperate or worried about how to celebrate Christmas. There are many more Christmas celebrations after this year. We don’t need much to celebrate the festival.
“If you ask me, I will say that we should pray on that day and eat our normal meals. I have told my family members, especially my children to be less worried about this year’s Xmas because the economy is too bad.
“I have planned before now to travel to my village during this Xmas, but from the look of things it will not be possible again. I know what members of my congregation are passing through daily due to the economic challenges.”
Also a businessman, Mr. Emeka Victor, said that he is yet to finish paying his children’s school fees talk less of buying any Christmas clothes for them.
“I was made to write an undertaking in my children’s school before they were allowed to write their last examinations, with a promise to balance up before the next academic session commences. Christmas or no Christmas, all that matters to me now is how to balance up their fees and getting ready to pay for another session school fees.”
When asked if the wife was not supportive, Victor said: “My wife has been responsible for the house up-keep, but since the economy is bad coupled with the fact that she is servicing some loans, she had little or nothing to bring home at the end of the month except for some weekends when she brings little home from the shop.”
Similarly, Mrs Jane Adeba, a boutique owner at Ago-Palace Way, Okota Lagos told The Guardian that despite, not having enough stock, the patronage has been very low.
She said: “If it was when the economy was buoyant, many parents would have bought Christmas clothes for their children by now. Just some days to the Xmas, nothing is moving. I have never seen it like this before. My worry is not about Christmas celebration, but surviving the economic hardship.
“I am afraid that if this situation persists, it may lead to depression. I know what people have been passing through in the last one year. My friend came to me to borrow money to transport her to the village. She wanted to go to village and hide for some time. This is somebody I know how comfortable she was one year ago, because her business crashed due to FOREX crisis.
“I have told my children to forget about travelling or preparing for Christmas. What is most important now is how we can eat every day and pick our domestic bills.”
In the words of Mrs Yetunde Adeyemi, a teacher, Christmas is a special day that everyone looks forward to, but can only be enjoyed if there is money to spend.
She observed that what makes Christmas glamorous is the preparedness which money played a major role.
“A bag of rice is more than N15, 000, five tubers of yam goes for N5000 yet one will want to buy clothes and shoes for the children, before renewing one’s tenancy which is also compulsory. How does one meet up?
“On a normal day, we ought to have started seeing the impact of the coming celebration everywhere but on the contrary, everywhere is very dry except for some few offices that have been decorated with red and green colours to symbolise the mood of the season.
In his own remarks, Ralph Ikem, an artisan, maintained that despite the economic situation, Christmas still remains a special day that nothing can change its importance and celebration.
On how he is preparing for the day, he said he would be traveling to meet his relations which has been his usual habit of celebrating Christmas.”
“I have bought clothes and shoes needed for the day for my children. I have also bought gifts that I usually give to people which is what the day actually represents.”
There is no doubt that this year’s Christmas celebration would be one full of mixed feelings among the Christian faithful in Nigeria, due to the economic recession.