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Seven Amazing Reasons Why Christmas Customs and Traditions in Southeastern Nigeria are Surviving

Today I want to share some of the amazing Christmas cultures of my people, the Southeastern, Nigeria.Do enjoy the discourse at great length

Popular masquerade dance

Popular masquerade dance

Seven Amazing Reasons Why Christmas Customs and Traditions in Southeastern Nigeria are Surviving

Every year, the people of southeastern Nigeria return home for Christmas. This long–aged tradition is passed on from generation to generation. This famous Christmas journey often leaves Lagos, the commercial hub of Nigeria deserted and Abuja, the capital city of Nigeria unpeopled. The "Igbos" as generally known have certain customs during Christmas that have kept attracting and engaging them during Christmas festive season. In this article, I will reveal seven amazing Christmas customs and traditions in Southeastern Nigeria that makes them return back home to celebrate every Christmas season.

1. Family Bonding

Southeastern people of Nigeria are known to live and work in all parts of the country, Nigeria. Irrespective of their location, they will always travel home for Christmas for a lot of reasons. Most of them will like to visit their aged parents and spend quality time with them or for grandparents to bond with their grandchildren. Some consider it as an opportunity to escape the bustling and noisy cities; others will like to catch up with loved ones, old friends and relatives, while a few wants to relax in the serene and natural environment in the villages.

I would like to add that for those residing in neighboring cities, they find it relatively easy to visit home and return the same day. This is the exception rather than the rule because most often they have unnecessary sleepovers.

2. Scheduled Meetings

So many meetings are scheduled to hold during the Christmas season and makes a lot of people travel home for Christmas. The meetings are more like annual meetings held once a year and absentees are fined or seriously cautioned. Families will schedule family meeting, elderly men will attend kindred meetings, Mothers will attend "home and abroad meetings" and single and married women will attend "Umu ada" meetings. Beyond family meetings, many town union elections are conducted, diasporas meetings are also held about the same time.

Consequently, family disputes among siblings are often settled and families make a decision on the best way forward during such meetings. Kindred’s will discuss about acceptable social norms and caution defaulters or issue penalties. In addition, the women normally settle disputes and quarrels among themselves, while the "Umu ada" will evaluate the defaulters of customs and call them out to order, and where necessary a fine may be issued. The town unions and diaspora meetings would review the overall progress of the village and how best to bring about development to their hometown.

Igbo masquerade dance

3. Masquerade Dance

The masquerade dance known as "Igba manwu" in southeastern, Nigeria, is an attractive element that compels many families to visit home for Christmas. It is the sole responsibility of the young men to preserve, and promote the masquerade. Hence, the must come back home, isolate, and purify themselves. On masquerade days, the kids will watch this spectacular display of tradition from the men. The women and girls will peep from windows and doors to behold the marvelous dancing steps of the masquerade. Likewise, the young men will stand on the streets will eulogize the moving masquerade, while throwing it money and gifts at the same time.

In some villages like "Abriba" in Abia State and "Arondizuogu" in Imo State, Nigeria, the typically have Christmas masquerade parade. The masquerade dance symbolizes strength and success of past conquests by their ancestral warriors. In other places, women and young girls do not come in physical contact with the masquerade. Peradventure a woman touches the masquerade in error, the masquerade must undergo purification, and the woman heavily fined.

4. Local Competitions

Many persons living in other cities and towns are members of their native land associations. They include football teams, dancing groups, indoor games and outdoor team members, sports persons, comedians and artists. Christmas season creates talent discovering competitions for competitors, and sometimes reasonable cash prizes are awarded. I have seen the wealthy provide millions of Naira to be the star prize for the winners, and scholarship awards are given to student champions as well.

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During such sporting activities, club agents and representatives scout around for national and international team players. These Local competitions create an environment for cheering spectators, business activities, social gatherings, and interactions. Among the spectators include families, friends, relatives, mates, and visitors. The activities are so interesting that no one would like to miss it for anything.

5. Social Events

Several Social events make up 75 % of people’s outings and engagement during Christmas seasons. Christmas seasons are usually known for classy weddings and flamboyant burials. Nobody seems to know understand how it became a norm, nonetheless, it has some kind of aesthetic appeal that makes people attend the functions.

The primary reason I suggest are that both the celebrants and bereaved families believe in large crowd; hence the merrier and memorable it becomes. Hence, such social gatherings, pressurizes the hosts to extravagant spending in order to treat the guests to an exquisite banquet and elaborate opulence. On the other hand, age–grade associations and alma maters throw their end of the year parties during Christmas. Then again, in a number of villages, the Kings are crowned during the Christmas season, likewise conferment of chieftaincy titles on distinguished achievers.

On the other hand, the "Iwa akwa" is a traditional society in Mbaise, Imo State, Nigeria. They welcome boys into manhood, and is only celebrated during Christmas seasons in most villages. Subsequently, it involves large social gatherings and all sorts of merriment. Thanksgiving is also offered by the families of the celebrant. These social events are a significant factor that draws visitors and natives back home during Christmas no matter the challenge.

Typical market scenario

Typical market scenario

6. Christmas Market

There are traditionally, four market days calendar observed in the southeastern, Nigeria. These assign different market days to different villages. During such occasions, the market is unrestricted and commodities are untaxed. Consequently, a majority of urban dwellers crave for the Christmas day market because if provides an opportunity to purchase items at half the average price in the city. It is a day when people make a last minute Christmas purchases.

Moreover, neighboring towns, villages and visitors are welcomed to buy commodities, sell items, and exchange goods for services. Their primary challenge however, is that the roads leading to the open market are either closed or barricaded. This as I have experienced, will eventually cause traffic gridlock in the village which stretches into the city roads.

7. Crossover Nights

Crossover nights have become a popular term used by Nigerians to describe church service held on the night of every 31st of December of the year. This singular activity attracts worshippers from all works of life to their different church headquarters. The crowd is so enormous that crowd control are stretched beyond their limit. Additionally, churches would hire stadiums, theatres, and auditoriums. However, those event centers will hardly accommodate its members as throngs of people will be hanging outside.

The widespread reason for crossover night Christmas gathering is because, south easterners are religious conscientious people who believe that one of the grand finales of christmas celebration is to conclude the year in the church, and commence the new year with God. Furthermore, a number of side attractions during the crossover night includes, Christmas carol, Santa Claus, comedians, famous artist performing, and even visits from top government officials. These crossover nights have become an indispensable crowd pulling event every Christmas season.


In conclusion, these fantastic activities are some of the major events that take place in southeastern Nigeria during the Christmas season. A personal experience will surely compel people back home for Christmas regardless of distance. Nevertheless, whether these traditions and customs will survive the next century is still unknown. Notwithstanding, with the call to preserve the “Igbo” culture and pass it on to the next generation, there is greater likelihood of survival.

Local instrument display

Local instrument display

© 2020 Amarachi Nkwoada

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