From the feeling that comes from seeing her country home, to the music that plays from the radio, the little kiosks on roadsides displaying fried chicken, meat pies, akara, the flock of people going in and out of her family home, to the children going from house to house, waiting on adults to “do Christmas” for them, Chimamanda childhood memories of Christmas is a glow of goodwill.
In an article titled “Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie On Her Most Cherished Childhood Memories” for Vogue, Chimamanda shares her most cherished childhood memories of Christmas and we all can totally relate.
Trip to the village
We drove for two hours on pot-holed roads busy with rare traffic, car boots weighed down by yams and drinks and clucking chickens and bags of rice. Goats idled on the backs of vans. Sly policemen stopped cars and laughed and asked for Christmas money. Strangers waved to one another. In the early ’80s, barely dressed village children ran after our cars as we turned into the dirt road to Abba, waving and shouting, “Nno nu! Welcome!”
My paternal grandmother took us round to her neighbours, to show off her grandchildren. Sweating in the heat, glistening with pride, chaperoning my brothers and me, she said to each neighbour, “These are James’s children. They brought me gifts.”
My maternal grandmother offering us her yam and vegetable porridge, then fried fish, then chin-chin.
Uncles and aunts, cousins and some relatives we did not know arrived and hugged us children and asked, “Do you know me? Have you greeted me?’ Sometimes they acted hurt. ‘How come you don’t know me? I am your father’s uncle’s daughter’s child!’ Aunties marveling at how much we had grown and uncles slipping naira notes in our hands.
My childhood Christmas dresses were flouncy and full, pink or red, and I wore them with lace-trimmed white socks to mass on Christmas morning. And what was it with plastic sunglasses? All the children in the village wore them; very round or very square, with brightly coloured frames, and the little girls had hair braided with too-shiny extensions so outrageously fake that they were a celebration in themselves.
Househelps and relatives blending tomatoes and slicing onions, frying beef over an open fire in the backyard. The smokiness from our house and our neighbours’ houses — the cooking and the frying and the burning-off of goat hair — mixed with the Harmattan dust and coated the air in a lavender haze.
My brothers and I ate lunch quickly, with little ceremony: jollof rice and fried meats and no salad because the village didn’t lend itself to uncooked greens. We ate upstairs with our cousins. An adult relative supervised our meal and decided who could have Green Sands shandy instead of mere Coke. Afterwards we had chin-chin or cake that a relative had brought, usually a plain butter cake, and sometimes fruitcake rich with raisins.
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