It was the year 2005, my dad had decided that despite how rough things were for the family that period, we were going to celebrate Christmas properly as other families in the neighborhood did. We lived in the outskirts of the town of Ekpoma close to the forest.
In those days, it was a relatively quiet and peaceful town made up of folks who were caring and made mostly of the middle class. My parents and other siblings had been living there for a year and some months, while myself and my elder sister had been living with two of our aunts, both on my father's side of the family.
As much as my father might claim to love us, he didn't have a problem leaving us with our aunts for as long as possible, because like I said before, things were rough and my father could barely shoulder the responsibility of taking care of himself, mum and my other two siblings. But after almost two years of not seeing her children, mom wasn't going to have another Christmas without us, so she pestered the poor man until the man decided to come and bring us home from our respective aunt's place.
I arrived at about 9:00AM on the 23rd, and even though it was far into the morning, the weather was still extremely chilly and hazy, as if nature was literally putting the Christmas in the air. By the evening of the day, I would hear how my mum had destroyed the Christmas tree my dad had gotten a week before while she was protesting his refusal to bring me and my sister home. It was fun to hear, buy knowing my mother's rare rage, I was happy I wasn't around to witness it.
I was happy to be back with my family, even more happy to know I hadn't lost my place as the golden boy of the family. As I've stated before, there was a nearby forest and for long, people living in the area had termed it evil, claiming that anybody that had gone a bit far into it had never return and when search parties were organise, even some members of the search party never came back.
It was one of those stories you hear once, but will continually send chill down your spine. My dad would usually set traps and catch animals from outer part of it and as a result, he never saw all of that talk as more than superstition.
That evening was bliss, as we talked and updated each other about everything and laughed about it all, and I wished it didn't come to an end. For me, that was what Christmas stood for; a time to spread happiness, to be with family, to reconcile, to reconnect. On the morning of the 24th, Dad decided to go look for a tree in the forest that could pass for a Christmas tree. He took me with him but I wouldn't follow him into the deep.
I waited out there for almost six hours and he didn't show. I went back home to tell mum about it, and mum went bersecked, screaming and shouting her head off, begging for people to come help look for her husband, but nobody was willing to risk their life for his. Mum wanted to go after him, but the neighbours held her back, asking her what will become of her children if she goes missing too. She would cry all day.
At about 2PM, while we were all inside the house moody and crying, the front door opened and there he was standing, looking puzzled. My mum's first reaction, wonderful woman that she is, was to walk up to him, leave a very well-arranged slap on his cheek before hugging him tight for dear life. We all ran and joined the hug.
He would later tell us that a few steps into the forest, he told me to just go home as he decided to do more than get a tree, I must have been lost looking at the Owl, not to have heard him. He came back with an antelope, a live rabbit and of course, the tree.
Kids that we were, we played with the bunny all day. He went out in the evening and brought a live chicken as well and we play into the Christmas Eve with the live animals and fireworks as well. It was a beautiful Christmas Eve, as the sky was well light with different colours of fireworks, producing one giant rainbow, an unending colour palette.
When we were all exhausted, we went to bed, only to wake up early to start preparing food on the 25th as is our tradition. Everybody participated in the cooking including myself and Dad (yes, my dad is not one who believe in gender roles, or cooking been a woman's job).
The second best part of that Christmas (which we the kids never liked and made no point of hiding that dislike😂😂) was when it came to sharing the best part of the food we had made to the neighbours.Myself and my four other siblings took multiple trips in different directions sharing food (against our will of course 😂) to the neighbourhood.
After all that, we bathed and wore our Christmas dress and sat round the table to fulfill our family tradition. Christmas was the one period where there was no restrictions on what you ate and how you ate it. We never ate with plates, we ate with a wide stainless tray, everybody congregating around it.
My mom served the food, as we waited with tired salivating. My Dad would say a few words of advice. On that table, the whole essence and purpose of Christmas was revealed and lived, for before we ate, my Dad would lectured us on the reason we had to share out the best part of the food, as Christmas is a time we remember God's greatest gift given to us and sacrifice given for man and how we ought to pass it on in our little ways.
He told us it was a time for forgiveness of sin and reconciling of one to the other as that was what Jesus did for us during Christmas. For him personally, as a family, it was a time to reconnect and reaffirm our love to one another.
When he was done, we ate with reckless abandon, and every possible bad table manner was allowed that day. It was beautiful, but the most beautiful part of the Christmas was not the giving, the celebration or the wanton gluttoning, but the reminder of what Christmas was and the whole reason while it is commemorated every year. That was the best Christmas we ever had.
Till date, everyday of the month of December of every year, that's the memory my minds keep going to and dwelling on. It's been a long time now, but in my head it's still as fresh, beautiful and sweet as it was that day.
This also doubles as my entry to the #BCHNigerianForumXmasChallenge as organised by @Greatwolfman , hence why it is quite lengthy as I'm using one stone to kill two birds due to limited time. Please consider me. Let me know if it doesn't qualify tho
I hope it does qualify for both as I've tried to make it captivating, informative and Christmas-themed, so it can meet all the requirements of both challenges.
Thanks to the organisers of this challenges, and I really hope I've done enough to be one of the winners of your challenges.