Few Reasons Why Christmas Remains Magical In Benue State

Culture, Tradition 31/12/2020 by Doosuur Ukula

Christmas season happens to have a wave of distinct experiences. I thought as I sat immersed in a pool of flowing thoughts. Christmas felt good, a season that brought hope and good tidings. I have siblings who had left us for greener pastures to other states and who rarely came home because they had no time at work. But the Christmas season makes things magical and possible every year, my siblings always return during this period to celebrate Christmas with us, thus, I hold Christmas in high-esteem, even mama and papa call this season their ‘golden season’ because they have their children back home and a full house glistening with happiness.

I rarely eat salads and a lot of meat on other days, but I do on Christmas day and even the food cooked on Christmas day tastes deliciously different.

I always do something crazily-ridiculous on Christmas day; I always make sure I have ‘Multivite'(a drug that induces hunger) handy. I usually take it on that day, so I can consume as much food as I can. Just imagine the plenteous food we have on that day, and other people also giving some food out to us as well; there is always a lot of giving and receiving. The food cooked on Christmas day is usually a ‘slap-up’ one; I rarely eat salads and a lot of meat on other days, but I do on Christmas day and even the food cooked on Christmas day tastes deliciously different.

As I sat swimming in thoughts which grew into an ocean every passing second, I recalled something spectacular. There was this awesome tradition (which is becoming obsolete, it is now less practised in Benue State) where every Christmas, mami-water (as it is called) went into every street displaying their unique dance style. They wore a large ring-like object around their waists as they wiggled it. They wore masks all the time and no one could see their faces, people sprinkled money on them as they danced while others gave them cash in hand, all the sprinkled money was picked up by their messengers and preserved for them. I yearn to still watch them perform, I miss the fun and everything about it. My heart screamed from within.

There is also this tradition I love that occurs every Christmas period: the Christmas carol! Where choristers move from house to house singing songs of good tiding. It actually feels magical listening to their angelic voices of: soprano, alto, tenor and bass. I was once a chorister, but though, in secondary school. So, whenever I hear these choristers beautifully sing songs that I know, I make sure to sing along wherever I am, as long as I can hear them.

Moreover, during Christmas periods, you get to hear popular Christmas songs by ‘Boney M’, those songs have always been the best Christmas hits as long as I can remember.

So this Christmas season, I decided to make it merrier, I went around my neighbourhood to inquire about Christmas from my neighbours and friends, to hear funny events and what their views are about Christmas, I had a mental note of my questions prepared, I was ready for the battle of enquiry with my armour of questions. And then, my jolly quest began; in Gboko Local Government.

In Gboko Local Government

Joy Okoh’s Interview

This is no Joy Okoh. Image source: Nelly Ating “Bling”

The first person I interviewed was an Igede colleen; my cheerful neighbour called Joy Okoh who hails from Obi Local Government Area of Benue State. She spent most of her Christmas in Gboko where I was temporarily resident. I felt avid, I really wanted to know what she liked and disliked about Christmas here in Gboko. Read More

So I asked her, “What do you like about Christmas here in Gboko? You’ve spent series of Christmases here, so, I’ll really love to know.”

“For me,” she began, “I love Christmas in Gboko because, even though things are difficult in Benue State, It’s not the same here in Gboko, even the poor can afford to buy things and celebrate the yuletide season happily. And my elder brother takes us out on Christmas days.”

“What do you abhor about Christmas here in Gboko?” I pushed further.

And then, she answered me again politely, “What I hate the most about Christmas here is that, there are always crimes especially by young boys, they steal and commit all manner of crimes and sometimes, cultists disrupt the celebrations and ruin our joy.”

I asked her finally, “What does Christmas mean to you?” 

She sucked in gulps of air before replying me. “To me, Christmas means to give to people and also a time to spend some time with my family and loved ones.”

I spoke to her and thanked her for her time, it felt really good hearing my first interviewee’s reactions. I felt pure joy flow through me like a dazzling river. I took both mental and physical notes while listening to her. I made up my mind that I would interview more people, I needed to hear more and learn more about people’s views on Christmas and some of the events that got them thrilled. I felt joy cascading through me. And then I continued with my interview.

Hembafan Doris Tsavza’s Interview

This is not Hembafan. Image source: Lagos Photo Festival

The second person I interviewed is named Hembafan Doris Tsavza from Buruku Local Government Area, a sweet neighbour of mine, jovial and loving. Read more

“Where do you spend your Christmas?” I asked her after offering her a seat when she visited me.

“In my village, Mbagem, but sometimes, I also spend my Christmas here in Gboko.”

“Oh my! Superb!” I said as my heart melted with immense happiness like a bar of chocolate. 

So I asked her, “what do you like about Christmas?”

“I love Christmas because our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ was given birth to and he had come to severe us from sin and now, everyone has an opportunity to talk to God, but before, it wasn’t like this, before we could speak to God, there were prophets who only through them could God speak to us. Now, we can all talk to God through prayers, so, that is what I really love about Christmas. Most importantly, he was born and he died to save us all.” She said as a ghost of a smile played on her lips.

Realizing that she was also engrossed in the conversation, I threw more questions at her as zeal ate at me.

“Did anything spectacular or funny happen during Christmas?”

“Sometimes during Christmas, some things that are bad happen which to me, are sometimes hilarious because some people walk about naked. There is this guy called ‘crazy bull dog,’ and at Buruku river during Christmas, the guy tied a rope on his penis and walked about naked while letting ladies drag him with the rope tied on his penis and he doesn’t feel shy, find it funny or weird either. Meanwhile, some people use paints to paint their butts while walking about naked.”

And finally, “what do you dislike about Christmas? And what does Christmas mean to you?” I asked her both questions concurrently, sensing fatigue in her voice.

“What I really hate about Christmas is that, some people have taken Christmas to longer be something godly, it has now become something of the flesh and blood. People do bad things and misbehave, walking about nude and doing things that does not glorify God.” She went ahead to answer the second question, “what Christmas means to me is the birth of our saviour, our Lord Jesus Christ.” 

I became so engrossed in my interviews that I began to interview more than one person per day.

Dauda From Adamawa State On Christmas In Benue State

This is not Dauda. Image source: sarasotavisualarts.com

The fun was enthralling, a feeling of elation skittered through me, I went to the house of another neighbour of mine, an elderly man who is quite loquacious and enjoys interactions a lot and he is called Dauda Buba from Gombi Local Government Area, Adamawa State. I had interacted with him several times and he was always the one to spark up the topics and the things we discussed. I knew this was the perfect opportunity for me, my questions were going to extract replies from him. Firstly, I asked him where he spent his Christmas holiday and what Christmas means to him. Read more

“Christmas means sharing love and happiness. People are happy on that day, and the celebrations gives me some sense of hope and my family altogether enjoy the merry moments.” He paused and continued, “I spent my Christmas here in Gboko previously, I usually spend my Christmas here.”

“Has anything quite abnormal, funny or abhorrent happen during Christmas and what do you abhor about Christmas?”

He replied me laughing, his voice reeked of disgust: “Yes o! You’ll see all these boys and girls naked on motorcycles, I say completely naked oh! Not like they wear trousers or anything. Not in the night, in the afternoon. At times, both the motorcyclist and the passenger sit naked, I think they do that after drinking or taking hard drugs/substances like tramadol. Then, the event of going to this river side like Katsina-ala and Buruku where some people will go and die there- inside the water. There was a time I went to Katsina-ala when it was Christmas, I went there and came back on Christmas day, if you see how the girls dressed, it was surprising. Moreover, the thing I abhor about Christmas is the misbehaviors, I don’t like the misbehaviors.”

And then I asked him the last question on my mental list, I asked him what he liked about Christmas in Gboko because if there was something abhorrent, then, there would also be something to like.

He replied to me what he liked about Christmas. “Christmas is good because almost everybody here is a Christian and many people participate in the celebrations of the season unlike places in the North. People share food and a lot more here.”

In Makurdi Local Government

On the next day, I had to travel to Makurdi Local Government Area to see my father and return the next day, I felt pleasure seep through me; that is my actual place of residence and since I was going for a one day visit to my dad, I knew the welkin had blessed me, I have amazing buddies over there whom I knew would undergo my Christmas-related interrogations. I got ready and travelled.

Ojila Monday’s Interview

And in Makurdi, the fourth person– my friend, whom I spoke to told me a lot, his name is Ojila Monday from Apa Local Government Area. I asked him some of my regular questions and sat back with itchy ears so my avid brain could collate all his replies, then I asked him where he spent his previous Christmas. Read more

“I spent my Christmas in Benue State, particularly in Apa Local Government.” He replied me smiling.

Oh my! This is going to be fun. My heart skipped with joy.

“What do you like about Christmas in Apa?” I asked him as my pallid face turned brighter and brighter.

Apart from marriage and other ceremonies that take place during the festive season, I enjoy the Christmas period because, in Apa local government particularly in Igaopaya, a few days to Christmas, there is a traditional festival where masquerades will troop out and then, you’ll enjoy the sights of masquerades, the lively performances in different places and the different ceremonies, the marriages. You get to meet some of your family members and old friends and its really enjoyable.”

It felt so good listening to him, more questions pounced through my mind, I needed to know more, I had to ask more. “Has anything spectacular happened during Christmas there in Apa that you can tell me of?”

He saw enthusiasm wash all over me, he shook his head and smiled before replying me: “Well, I’ll say something really spectacular had happened. It was kind of laughable. You know, in our place, we believe that masquerades are spirits, they are not human beings. And so in this place, you have masquerades flogging- though lightly, children and even elders who are found to be stubborn. And so, a driver was passing and usually, masquerades will stop them on the road. So, there was this driver that was passing and was stopped by a masquerade and in a bid to dance and jump over the bonnet of the man’s car, the glass mistakenly got broken and the man said the masquerade was going to pay for it. And while other persons were saying ‘how would you ask an ancestral spirit to pay for your damaged property? To our surprise, one of the elders of the land who was there said the masquerade had to pay for it, and I was surprised when the masquerade started crying that he was going to pay for damage he had caused. Though, it is a gross aberration for a masquerade to be paying for a broken property and like seriously, the elders of the land had to pay for it. But the spectacular thing that happened was that a masquerade cried. That was during the 2017 Christmas.”

A magma of laughter erupted from within me as I shook vigorously with abundant laughter, he laughed as well. It sounded like a fiction, but it was actually non-fictional, his style of narration made even the tiniest non-funny word tickle me with laughter.

Suddenly, I asked him what he didn’t like about Christmas, the serene atmosphere remained calm as it smiled and some air caressed us.

“What I hate particularly about Christmas is that, Christmas is a two days something but you would see or find people borrowing exorbitant amount of money to buy clothings for their children for the purpose of this festival, you’ll see people beyond their financial limits to borrow in other to ensure that they provide for their children and in other not for people to laugh at them, as in, having the inability to provide for their needs and wants. You’ll see people borrowing. At the end of the Christmas, after Christmas would have gone, you’ll see people going from pillar to poles in order to settle their debts and so, it is really annoying to see that people wouldn’t want to cut their clothes according to their clothes and I find it really disturbing. And you’ll also see girls going after men in other to secure their financial needs in order to satisfy their needs during the Christmas. Some of them become loose and promiscuous in order to pay their bills during Christmas. And after the Christmas, you’ll see pregnancies everywhere, and there are usually numerous cases of unwanted pregnancies and juvenile.” He said as his face dimmed with sorrow.

I actually knew how annoying all he had stated could be. So, I figured out that the questions were enough. I bade him goodbye and left, I realized how interesting it was to interview him about Christmas.

I had to leave Makurdi the next day in the morning, and I knew I had to interview at least one more person over there. What captivated me the most was the fact that I asked my interviewees’ same questions and each one of them had distinct replies that tickled my interest vigorously.

Bem Tyozer’s Interview

After I had interviewed the fourth person, I moved over to the fifth whose name is Bem Tyozer from Guma Local Government Area of Benue State. A friend of mine resident in Makurdi.

“Please gist me,” I told him politely. “Where did you spend your Christmas? And did any spectacular or weird event happen during the Christmas season in Makurdi?” Read more

“I spent my Christmas in Makurdi and something unimaginable happened. A guy was standing at the roadside not far from his home, another guy came and shook hands with him and his penis disappeared, I mean it became very tiny. The victim didn’t notice on time, when he later noticed what had befallen him, fear gripped him. He moved about in the neighbourhood and found the weird guy who had shaken him stolen his innocent pintle. He complained to the pintle stealer that his endowed underneath had disappeared, but the pintle stealer feigned ignorance of the whole thing and this guy who was the victim left him. But afterwards, the guy who was the victim of the stolen penis raised an alarm in his neighbourhood and the pintle stealer was nabbed and reprimanded by neighbours and the victim’s penis was restored.Guess what? The victim’s family refused to let the pintle stealer go, they insisted that their son had to test the restored penis to be sure it could perform its duty effectively again. The guy’s family arranged for a girl quickly and he tested his restored penis to ensure it was active. Afterwards, the pintle stealer was released when the victim’s pintle performed effectively.”

“So, what do you like/dislike about Christmas?”

We celebrate Christmas – the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is always a lovely moment, there is always that inward excitement I feel, it’s always fun. What I dislike about Christmas is that, people misbehave during this season a lot. On the day of Christmas, people engage into so many ungodly activities. Many people drink and get drunk, girlfriends visit their boyfriends and they think it’s a day to have fun. More so, the rate of accidents that day is quite alarming, accidents are usually higher on that day than other days as a result of people’s intoxication and recklessness; some accidents on that day are ones that could have been avoided if the principles of caution were adhered to. Thus, I even feel frightened going out on that day, I say indoors and I go out on boxing day instead, that is, a day after Christmas. These are the few things that make me dislike that day.”

When I asked him what Christmas means to him, I got the most shocking reply amongst my interviews from him, his reply dug a hole in my heart, the pain I felt penetrated deep into the hole and it made me bleed with sympathy.

“Christmas means a lot to me, most importantly, I celebrate my sister’s remembrance during this season, she died in December and was buried on 24th of December. Her remembrance ushers in Christmas.  More so, it’s a day to celebrate Jesus’ birth, his birth means so much to us. We celebrate the special one who came to this world and died for our sins, it’s also a special moment for we Christians.” He said sullenly.

I shivered with sympathy, his tone reeked of excruciation, pain stabbed me as my heartbeat went on a marathon.

Back To Gboko Local Government

I came back to Gboko from Makurdi the next day, I had just three more persons to interview to satisfy my inquisitive appetite for knowledge about people’s experiences and what Christmas was to them. It was fun. I rested when I returned from Makurdi a whole day and on the next day, I continued my quest.

John from Cross River on Christmas in Benue

The sixth interviewee is called John aka The Great Electrician from Obaliku Local Government Area, Cross River. I went to his shop to interview him and when I mentioned that I would love to interview him, he complained to me that he was famished and since food isn’t expensive in Gboko, I should buy some food for him before he could answer me.

I swelled with laughter as it welled up in me, I told him I was doing my interview for leisure purpose and to share to the world, people’s reactions and experiences about Christmas, he felt slightly abashed for asking a young girl to buy some food for him because of an interview. He finally accepted and I went ahead to ask him my regular questions.

And I asked him, “Where did you spend your Christmas?”

Read more

He replied almost immediately, “I usually spend my Christmas here in Gboko since I’m resident here with my family.”

His reply sent waves of cheerfulness that kept springing through me. He saw my enthusiasm and smiled at me.

I stared at his smiling face and asked, “Has anything spectacular or strange happened during Christmas?”

“Yes! Something very strange had happened to my neighbor- a motorcyclist during the last Christmas. On Christmas day, he had picked up two girls and had charged their transport fare for 500 Naira which the girls agreed to pay. When the motorcyclist had taken the girls to their destination, they didn’t have the complete money to pay and guess what? The girls did something absolutely bizarre to this motorcyclist, both girls tapped him at his back and his pintle vanished underneath his trouser instantly and he began to weep. Fortunately for him, it was restored afterwards.”

When I heard the weird story, goosebumps danced on every inch of my body, I wandered how something this extraordinary could happen, it felt fearful and laughable, though I didn’t laugh. My lungs held back from releasing the laughter that had welled up in me after the story.

“What do you like/dislike about Christmas in Gboko?”

“I like Christmas in Gboko because we have surplus food here.” He paused for a while and thought before continuing, “I don’t like Christmas here because they celebrate it in a ‘christiandom way.’ There are picnics, recklessness and so many unnecessary celebrations. At Yandev, I saw so much nonsense! A guy and a lady were dancing “beer dance”, both of them were completely nude, there were not wearing any clothes, it was disgusting for me.” He said with disgust.

“And what does Christmas mean to you?”

“It means a lot to me because I acknowledge the birth of Jesus Christ.” He said finally.

Gabriel from Enugu on Christmas in Benue

And my next interviewee is an old man who likes me a lot and is called Gabriel Ignatius Testimony from Angwa Local Government Area of Enugu State. He has been resident here in Gboko for decades. I wanted to listen to his own experiences during Christmas in Gboko too, I needed to know what he liked and disliked about Christmas in a place which he was only a resident but which was not his. Enthusiasm numbed me that I could barely breathe out of excitement.

He sat very relaxed in a chair, ready for all the questions I would throw at him. I was quite aware that he had spent his Christmas here, but I needed a confirmation from him as well. I went ahead to ask him my regular questions. Read more

“Where did you spend your Christmas?”

“Here, in Gboko.” He answered.

“And has anything spectacular happened during the Christmas season in Gboko?”

“During Christmas, precisely 26th, someone here invited me last year to follow them to Buruku river, I had said no! He pleaded, but I still repudiated. I then asked him what makes the place special. There is something weird that happens there, when you get there or while you are on transit, you will see boys and girls sexing inside the vehicle and when they get to the place, it becomes a competition, the orgies become more lewd, the opprobrium will be done openly and people take pictures during such wanton activities. The Buruku river is like a beach and people gather there on 26th to celebrate Christmas, people would be nude and you’ll see matured ladies and men publicly having carnal knowledge of one another. Some people come back just to witness these events. Some people died there last year via accident.”

“So, what do actually do you like about Christmas in Gboko?”

“The thing is that some people who had travelled come back during Christmas to reunite with their families, you’ll also see new faces. Moreover, some people that are outside the country come back to embark on one project or the other for development; and this is the only time they have to come home. Like now, in preparation for Christmas this month, some people are buying cement while others are sending money for same to renovate their homes because they are coming for Christmas.”

“What do you dislike about Christmas in Gboko?”

“There is nothing I don’t like about it here, the only thing is applicable in every other city. Most at times in this festivity period, a few students incur accidents. Also, many people do not know the true meaning of Christmas, they think it is the time for them to mix up with boys and girls and behave anyhow they like whereby, at the end of the day, many ladies will be at the receiving end. I know one or two girls that two years ago, an SS2 student, during Christmas was running up and down enjoying herself and by February, she was rusticated because she was pregnant.” He said staring at the ground like it held the answer to all his numerous ponderings.

“What does Christmas mean to you?” I asked him finally.

“Christmas is a period of conception, thus, between December to January, every man and woman need to conceive an idea. Thinking of how to be better in the coming year and thinking of what to do for their betterment the next year. For example, if you look at the bible in Mark 1:19, they were mending their nets before going for fishing. You’ll prepare and amend your ways. Also, it is a period to sit down for a sober reflection, to think over the past one year, you’ll figure out your mistakes and try not to repeat it. You’ll amend yourself, correct yourself and prepare yourself against the next year.” He added bible verses in almost every conversation because of his status as a pastor.

On the last day of my quest, I felt elated that I had sucked in a good amount of knowledge about how people viewed Christmas and what it meant to them. I took my notepad again, ready to write down the replies that my friend Justina Ihotu would proffer. She is a cheerful colleen who hails from  Agatu Local Government Area of Benue State.

I had made a terrible assumption about her earlier. As a beautiful Idoma girl, I assumed she always spent Christmas in Idomaland though resident in Gboko. My presumption turned out to be a spurious one when I asked her where she spent her Christmas.

Justina Ihotu’s Interview

“I spent my Christmas here in Gboko.”

I was taken aback by her calm and soft reply and her words; as smooth as butter. It felt good knowing I would spend my next Christmas with her. I was compelled by words that I kept on questioning her.  

And so I asked her, “So, what do you like about Christmas in Gboko? And one more thing, what do you abhor about Christmas here in Gboko.” Read more

“I love Christmas here in Gboko because my family and friends make it worthwhile. Meanwhile, I loathe Christmas here because they take the fun really seriously.”

And I asked her the last question “what does Christmas mean to you?”

“Christmas is the birth of Christ, a great remembrance that Jesus was actually born for humanity. I thank God always and it makes my younger ones happy and expectant of what the day would bring to them. Laugh out loud, I get joy from seeing them happy.”

And that was my last interviewee, I felt raw bliss lubricate and grease the walls of my heart. I successfully learnt from people’s experiences, I had a mountain of the requisite knowledge I quizzed for, it was splendid, funny and tragic experiences hammered from every angle; some made me sober and sullen, others made me scream with excitement that incited a surfeit amount of laughter. 

Gladly, I penned down my own experiences and also compiled these non-fictional and personal experiences of other people listed herein. I realized it was worth sharing and it made my tender heart leap. 

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