Christmas on a Shoestring in the Southeast

Penny Wisdom

The author

By Emeka Uzoatu

Whatever the reason for the season, Christmas is never a time for the advertisement of frugality. Especially in the Southeast of Nigeria. Be you a committed, lukewarm or nominal Christian, it always gifts all the best opportunity to profess their faith abundantly. All the more so in this day and age of prosperity preaching.

Like one wisecrack once encored, it’s more a time for wealth assessment than any other in the Christian calendar. And this spans the entire week or two flowing from well before the 25th day of December, up until well after New Year’s Day.

The hardness or softness of the times notwithstanding, Christmastime remains the time to throw your weight open. You may have managed through Easter – the reason for the faith – but the birthday of Jesus can never be trifled with by even a proselyte.

Like comes to pass every year, this has them journeying from wherever they are resident to their permanent home bases. And you don’t just make the trip empty handed. Lest you are ready to be numbered among the destitutes. 

Thus, this has those in the capacious state hitting home with loads of lucre and largesse. Apart from an entirely transformed wardrobe, there is always enough food and drinks to last up to a month. And not unlike politicians at election season, cash is often moved with bullion vans.

The trip is always embarked on in a convoy. And of possibly-brand-new, bought-for-the-season vehicles. Of course, bringing up the rear of the train of vehicles would be Rolls Royces, Bentlys and Cadillacs. 

Yes, like an abridged military convoy, while a minivan would carry personnel; another – a bus, perhaps – would be laden with wares and gifts.

A lot of the space in the bus will needfully be taken up by cartons of exotic drinks. Sure there must be whiskeys. The older, the better. The twenty-one years old, mostly, for the crème dela creme. Then there would be those aged between eighteen and twelve years for the wannabes. Anything less cannot be tolerated.

Champagne nko? They are never to be left out – the expensive, of course. Mostly Don Perignon, Laurent Perrier, and Cristal. So much that Moet and Chandon as well as Clicquot are just there for the asking.

Need we go on to wines red, white and sparkling?

                     Heist or Hustle

Yet, not all that set out to blow at the beginning of the year end up successfully. 

A whole damn lot end up paying the price for the dare. For that matter, some – depending on the nature of their heist or hustle – end up either imprisoned or decapitated.

For some the decision is often reached to avoid home till the surge ebbs. After all, the latter would argue, all promontories of land all over the earth are the same. They are the ones often unaccounted for, like women and children as Jesus fed the five thousand, when real Southeasterners stand up for the count.

However, many of those in this endangered group must make the trip. Mostly, it’s just done so as not to be counted among the dead before their funerals. This has them heading home on a shoe-stringed budget and damning the consequences.

For those without private vehicles, the first hurdle to scale is often transportation. Traveling with family here means having to cope with quadrupled fares per head. 

So much has this become that even the social media space has been taken over by umpteen travel advisors. However, their only problem remains that since they charge no fees, their best efforts often pass off as fake news. 

Like one based in Owerri, the Imo State capital posted on his Facebook page as December dawned. Going by his profile picture, the bespectacled gentleman appeared too serious by half. Mostly with beards all greyed up by age. His advice also appeared worth its avoirdupois in gold.

If you had to take a minibus to Owerri from Abuja, for instance, the fare would amount to Eighteen Thousand Naira, he posted. But if the journey is broken down into phases, one was bound to do it in less than half the cost of the straight trip.

No mention, however, was made concerning how the arrived would make it at home through the festivities. Which is where the wisdom of the penny comes in handily. 

First is to remember that because all lizards lie on their tummies, it’s difficult to know which has belly ache. What is in implication? Throughout the festivities, never compromise your dressing. 

Then where possible, always attach yourself to the front seat of a friend or relative’s car. This is to avoid the dust being raised by passing vehicles. Only this way can you be spared the reproach of loved ones – as enunciated by Ghana’s Ayi Kwei Armah in his novel The Beautyful  Ones Are Not Yet Born. 

Also, you have to make it a point of duty to be on the road often. That way you’ll end saving the scarce resources you’d have spent entertaining visitors at home. 

But, all said and done, here’s the best advice for those that cannot stand the heat of Christmas. And it comes from the stables of the infallible penny: Why risk the travel? After all, voiced or muffled, the entire country is in a lockdown.