by Harriet E. Michael
Nigeria, where I grew up, is a country on the coast of West Africa just beneath the Sahara Desert. Christmas in Nigeria comes in the middle of the dry season–a special part of the dry season known as Harmattan.
Wikipedia defines Harmattan like this: The Harmattan is a dry and dusty West African trade wind. It blows south from the Sahara into the Gulf of Guinea between the end of November and the middle of March. Humidity can drop to as low as 15 percent. In some countries in West Africa, the heavy amount of dust in the air can severely limit visibility and block the sun for several days, comparable to a heavy fog.
Against this backdrop, we celebrated Christmas. My father used to say he liked the fact that Christmas came in the middle of Harmattan. In America everything would have been stark, cold, and dreary, with the trees bare and the air full of winter’s chill. And in the middle of this otherwise dreary time, Christians celebrate the birth of the Savior with ornamented and brightly-lit trees, gifts, good food, and Christmas cheer. Likewise in Nigeria, when the world was dry and dusty, all the leaves and grass a dreary brown, Christians celebrate the joyous birth of their Savior with songs and good cheer.
I loved the Christmases of my childhood! They were unique and wonderful. We used a small casuarina tree for our Christmas tree and decorated it with whatever we could find. Many of us had brought those old-fashioned large bulb tree lights and we had electricity, albeit somewhat unreliable.
On a humorous note, when I was a baby, I had very thin wispy blonde hair. During the Harmattan season the static electricity from the dry blowing air caused my hair to stand on end most of the time and my family fondly called me “Harriet the Harmattan cat” because my hair looked like the hair on the back of cats when they arch in fear or anger.
Writing Prompt: Have you ever spent Christmas away from home? If so, describe your experience, if not, write a fictional Christmas away from home story.