AN AFRICAN CHRISTMAS STORY

AN AFRICAN CHRISTMAS STORY
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The Night Before Christmas

An African Christmas Story

by P. E. Adotey Addo

It was the night before Christmas and I was very sad because my family life had

been severely disrupted and I was sure that Christmas would never come. There was none

of the usual joy and anticipation that I always felt during the Christmas season. I was

eight years old but in the past few months I had grown a great deal. Before this year, I

thought Christmas in my village came with many things. Christmas had always been for me

one of the joyous religious festivals. It was the time for beautiful Christmas music on the

streets, on radio, television, and every where. Christmas had always been a religious

celebration and the church started preparing way back in November. We really felt that

we were preparing for the birth of the baby Jesus. Christmas was the time when relatives

and friends visited each other so there were always people traveling and visiting with great

joy from all the different tribes. I always thought that was all Christmas was. Oh, how I

wished I had some of the traditional food consumed at the Christmas Eve dinner and the

Christmas Day dinner, I knew I could not taste the rice, chicken, goat, lamb, and fruits of

various kinds. The houses were always decorated with beautiful paper ornaments. The

children and all the young people loved to make and decorate their homes and schools

with colorful crepe paper. All of us looked forward to the Christmas Eve Service at our

church. After the service there would be a joyous possession through the streets.

Everyone would be in a gala mood with local musicians in a Mardi Gras mood. Then on

Christmas Day we all went back to church to read the scriptures and sing carols to remind

us of the meaning of the blessed birth of the baby Jesus. We always thought that these

were the things that meant Christmas. After the Christmas service young people received

gifts of special chocolate, special cookies, and special crackers. Young people were told

that the gifts come from Father Christmas, and this always meant Christmas for us. They

also received new clothes and perhaps new pairs of shoes. Meanwhile throughout the

celebration, everyone was greeted with the special greeting word, “Afishapa” meaning

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. Oh how I wish that those memories were real

tonight in order to bring us Christmas. However, this Christmas Eve things were different

and I knew Christmas would never come. Every one was sad and desperate because of

what happened last April when the so-called Army of Liberation attacked our village and

took all the young boys and girls away.

Families were separated and some were murdered. We were forced to march and

work for many miles without food. We were often hungry and we were given very little

food.. There was very little food. The soldiers burned everything in our village and

during our forced march we lost all sense of time and place. Miraculously we were able to

get away from the soldiers during one rainy night. After several weeks in the tropical

forest we made our way back to our burned out village. Most of us were sick, exhausted,

and depressed. Most of the members of our families were no where to be found. We had

no idea what day or time it was. This was the situation until my sick grandmother noticed

the reddish and yellow flower we call, “Fire on the Mountain,” blooming in the middle of

the marketplace where the tree had stood for generations and had bloomed for

generations at Christmas time. For some reason it had survived the fire that had engulfed

the marketplace. I remembered how the nectar from this beautiful flower had always

attracted insects making them drowsy enough to fall to the ground to become food for

crows and lizards. We were surprised that the fire the soldiers started to burn the

marketplace and the village did not destroy the “Fire on the Mountain” tree. What a

miracle it was. Grandmother told us that it was almost Christmas because the flower was

blooming. As far as she could remember this only occurred at Christmas time. My spirits

were lifted perhaps for a few minutes as I saw the flower. Soon I became sad again. How

could Christmas come without my parents and my village?

How could this be Christmas time when we celebrate the birth of the Prince of

Peace, because since April we have not known any peace, only war and suffering. How

could we celebrate as grandmother instructed us to do before she died. Those were the

last words she spoke before she died last night. As I continued to think about past joyous

Christmases and the present suffering, we heard the horn of a car and not just one horn

but several cars approaching our village. At first we thought they were cars full of men

with machine guns so we hid in the forest. To our surprise they were not and they did not

have guns. They were just ordinary travelers. It seemed the bridge over the river near our

village had been destroyed last April as the soldiers left our village. Since it was almost

dusk and there were rumors that there were land mines on the roads, they did not want to

take any chances. Their detour had led them straight to our village. When they saw us

they were shocked and horrified at the suffering and the devastation all around us. Many

of these travelers began to cry. They confirmed that tonight was really Christmas Eve.

All of them were on their way to their villages to celebrate Christmas with family and

friends. Now circumstances had brought them to our village at this time on this night

before Christmas. They shared the little food they had with us. They even helped us to

build a fire in the center of the marketplace to keep us warm. In the middle of all this, my

sister became ill and could not stand up. A short time after we returned to our village my

grandmother told me that my oldest sister was expecting a baby. My sister had been in a

state of shock and speechless since we all escaped from the soldiers.

I was so afraid for my sister because we did not have any medical supplies and we

were not near a hospital. Some of the travelers and the villagers removed their shirts and

clothes to make a bed for my sister to lie near the fire we had made. On that fateful night

my sister gave birth to a beautiful baby boy. This called for a celebration, war or no war,

Africans have to dance and we celebrated until the rooster crowed at 6 a.m. We sang

Christmas songs. Every one sang in his or her own language. For the first time all the

pain and agony of the past few months escaped. When morning finally came my sister was

asked, “What are you going to name the baby”? Would you believe for the first time

since our village was burned and all the young girls and boys were taken away, she spoke.

She said, “His name is Gye Nyame, which means except God I fear none.”

And so we celebrated Christmas that night. Christmas really did come to our

village that night, but it did not come in the cars or with the travelers. It came in the

birth of my nephew in the midst of our suffering. We saw hope in what this little child

could do. This birth turned out to be the universal story of how bad things turned into

universal hope, the hope we found in the Baby Jesus. A miracle occurred that night

before Christmas and all of a sudden I knew we were not alone any more. Now I knew

there was hope and I had learned that Christmas comes in spite of all circumstances.

Christmas is always within us all. Christmas came even to our village that night.

P. O. Box 13356 Greensboro, North Carolina 27415 e-mail: addox@attglobal.net

Fax: 336-375-0068 Telephone: 336-375-5761

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