Happy Christmas – the Eket way!

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Writing 101, Day Ten: Happy Christmas!
Tell us about your favorite childhood meal — the one that was always a treat, that meant “celebration,” or that comforted you and has deep roots in your memory.
Feel free to focus on any aspect of the meal, from the food you ate to the people who were there to the event it marked.
Today’s twist: Tell the story in your own distinct voice.

I’m excited just remembering what Christmas meant to us. You are right to request that I talk about my childhood experience as Christmas is no longer what it used to be. No one goes to the village so much like then.

In the 70s, 80s and mid-90s whenever it was December, I always looked forward to the holiday as that meant new clothes and shoes, fancy hats and hair do, plenty of gifts, visits to cousins (you hadn’t seen in a long while), masquerade displays and of course Food! Food!! Food!!! Correct Rice and Stew plus Ekpang Nkukwo and Afang soup with foo foo. Yummy! 🙂

Rice & Stew

Rice & Stew

Ekpang Nkukwo

Ekpang Nkukwo

Afang Soup

Afang Soup

We didn’t care much about weight gain when it came to the food or decorum when it got to the point of being chased by a Masquerade. You had better run or else you would either be beaten with their whip or harassed/detained, while they sang some silly songs and expect you to bail yourself out by dropping some coins in their bowl.

It all starts with plenty packing and re-packing to be sure you had your favourite clothes in the box and then a really long journey from Port-Harcourt to Eket. Back then daddy would drive very slowly (with plenty respect for other road users) and being a Safety-conscious person we always arrived the village in the night…no matter when we left the city. But always in time to meet the evening Carol service in church and old friends too.

Christmas Day itself began a bit too early as we had to cook different dishes (the ones mentioned above and more) and prepare for the influx of persons that would come to visit their family members that had come in from the City. Of course when on such visits, they didn’t expect to go back hungry or empty-handed. Food and money had to exchange hands. Christmas back then was a time to spend and spend and return broke. Now people are wiser…giving only to the point where they can afford.

After the first batch of early morning visitors, we would go for Church Service and return to hot steaming plates of Rice and Stew…with intimidating chicken on it. You had other options to add to your consumption or choose from, but we only ate a dish because we had other plans and that included visiting. Hmmm…there were soft drinks to go round too for the children; while the grown-ups drank alcohol and some palmy or Palm Wine (some local drink from the Palm tree usually whitish).During this period, there wasn’t a home you visited that didn’t have food to offer you and the beauty of Christmas was in your ability to eat almost everywhere you went and still have space in your stomach for the next Auntie’s house!

The Masquerades usually don’t show up on December 25th but on the 26th so we are already aware and prepared to either avoid their paths, stay indoors and watch from our veranda or brave up and face any ‘consequence’ we met on our way out. An easy route of escape was going out with a male cousin who resides in the village. They normally would know who was behind the mask and stand in to prevent you from being ‘flogged’ or harassed.

Masquerade

Masquerade

A group of Masquerades

A group of Masquerades

Beyond the food and Masquerade was the feeling of togetherness and warmth this season brought and that was a high point too…and a childhood I sometimes miss!

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13 responses »

  1. This is SO interesting. I suggest you do a post just about the Masquerades. There must be quite a story/history there. Their costumes are exquisite…. but they sound really scary.

    • I’ll consider it…but that would be after I complete all my assignments on Writing 101. They are not scary though we have the scary ones. I’ll recommend a book for you to read when I do, as the author wrote a bit about them. Its a novel.

      • I try to make some of the stories I write for the writing courses match what I would have written anyway, so the opportunity may still come! 🙂

  2. Frances, remember the funny names of the masquerades; konko baby, tinkkoriko, ekpo njoor…..scary they were those days to us as children

  3. This post took me back many years- reminiscences of Christmas in Etinan- which by the way is close to Eket. In those days of naivety, the highlight of our Christmas day, whenever we visited home from Calabar, was watching the different displays from the ekpo masquerades and the thrill we got from being chased by them and woe betide you, if you allowed yourself to be caught. Other ones were: abang, ekoong, attaad, nnabor etc. Hope I got the names right, lol. I so identify with your post.

    • You even mentioned the ones I had forgotten. And like every other place in Akwa Ibom, the excitement was the same! And that is the Christmas some of our children (sadly) may never know…unless if we re-create it. *wink*

  4. Pingback: Time up, Pastor! | imanikingblog

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