When Christmas Day was a joyous occasion, the fun part was the vibrant festivities happening all around us; as the day Christ was born evokes the celebratory elements that should accompany such a miracle.
Truth be told, I wasn’t really wowed by the tale of the Virgin Mary, who magically gives birth to a baby boy without having sex. And I hated the fact that Jesus and his tribe were White, because it felt like a cruel exclusion — which is harder to take when you’re young and impressionable.
But the one thing I could enjoyably tolerate were the hymns, and the way the large organ served as the reliable amplifier with the dramatics that nobody of flesh and blood can casually reject.
The English did well with the stellar introduction to the Church of England and the attractive hymnals, that are cohesively splendorous under the direction of well-dressed ghosts who composed without the spirit of the Almighty.
You can’t conceive that catalog on your knees — with the picture of Christ compelling you. You have to be high as a kite to be able to dictate the “joyful and triumphant,” and deliver the “tidings of comfort and joy” with earnest bars that will chime long after you enter the gates of heaven.
Christmas Day was the day the prettiest dress in my closet would get to breathe the warm air mixed with spices from street vendors, before finally touching the velvety cushions in the florally decorated pews.
It was the day that Jesus Christ was praised for being the Birthday Boy, who we couldn’t see or touch or even hug, but somehow his presence was dear and near through the pages of the thick manual, that l always had to share with my brother — because the entire city clustered into the sizable Church for that one day when staying home publicly outed you as a heathen.
You could avoid the uneventful months of the year, but Easter and Christmas were non-negotiable.
Aside from the urgent need to sufficiently acknowledge the magnificence of Christ’s birth and the life-affirming blessings of His death and ascension — there was also the ceremony of getting dressed up in anticipation of an event that was supposed to flaunt the confirmation of your Christianity — to compensate for purposed truancy.
It’s interesting that Americans don’t go to church on Christmas Day — the actual Day that inspires the headiness behind the build up, that includes pretty much anything and everything except the proper homage to Mary’s Boy Child — Jesus Christ.
That’s actually the title of one of my favorite tracks from the Boney M Christmas album. The Afro-Caribbean group was quite popular in the seventies and eighties, mainly in Europe, and that traditionally filtered into Africa. I used to describe them as the Black version of ABBA, but with spice.
Anyway, the fact that Christmas Day isn’t spent giving it all the way up for the dude who gave it all up to make sure you can grab a reserved seat in the castle in the sky — is kind of the reason why Merry Christmas in American really means “Happy Holidays.”
It’s the Holiday that gives us permission to eat too much, get dutifully wasted and spend more than we receive.
Christmas in the States isn’t quite as fulfilling because maybe if I could go back to that church, and sit in the velvety pews while allowing Hark The Herald Angels Sing to soothe my soul back to my Lord and Savior — I could reclaim what has been stolen.
At this moment, I’m living the double life of stitched up beliefs, that are expanded to allow the symphony of Christmas hymns that I wish I could reject on cue — but the damn organ and angelic choruses won’t let me.
Christmas Day will be spent being American because this Nigerian had to be pick the lesser of two evils. There will be no dressing up for church and the crowds of heathens being made anew after the Silent Night finally brought Joy to the World.
It will be spiked eggnog, watching the gifts I could barely afford being ripped apart from the cheap wrapping paper, and the hours ahead that will slowly but surely lead to the grand finale.
A deep night’s sleep with the prayer that it will extend past noon.