The Thrill of Homecoming for Igbos in DecemberDec 08, 2022 11:00AM ● By Okechukwu Nzeribe
Iheaka Village | Enugu State Nigeria
Image Source: Juju Films, Flickr Commons
The month of December is not just any month for the Igbo people of South Eastern Nigeria, it is a month that heralds the final closure to the hustling and bustling activities that have become the customary trade mark at the start of every year.
As far as the Igbo people are concerned, December is a month for merriment; be it weddings, house opening, thanksgiving celebration and any other social events. It is also a great time for bonding with family, and a great opportunity for parents to spend quality time with their children and grandchildren.
You see, the Igbo people fondly referred to as Ndigbo have a trait that could be described as peripatetic in nature. They are likely to settle in far flung places where they set up businesses, build homes, raise their children and contribute to the growth of the host communities. It is commonly joked about that if you ever get to visit any land on this big wide earth and do not see an Igbo person, then you know that the land is not good for you to plant your roots.
Igbo Family in Traditional Attire, Image Source: Wikimedia Commons
Yet, even after settling upon these faraway lands, the heart of every Igbo person is still rooted in the lands of his ancestors. Hence the excitement and joy that permeate the homes of the sons and daughters of every Igbo when word spreads that the children of the land would be making that long and exhausting journey back home to partake in all the festivities that await them.
Back in my younger days, my parents would cook delicious meal of hot steamy rice and fried chicken all packed in coolers as we made the 9-10 hours’ journey from Lagos to Uli in Anambra State.
The sight of the vast greenery that greeted and bid us farewell as we crossed from state to state was beautiful to behold. We usually would stop over in a community in the old Bendel state which had a roadside market where we got out to stretch our legs, interact with the locals as well as purchase items such as bread, tubers of yam, cabin biscuits and different kind of fruits which would be used as gifts to the elderly, uncles, aunties and children who would be visiting to welcome us back from our travels.
The sight of the famous Niger Bridge which marks the gateway into the South Eastern Region of Nigeria would always get our hearts racing. That landmark bridge has continually reminded every person with Igbo roots even to this day that they are home amongst kith and kin.
From thereon it is only a matter of hours which, as children, we would gladly countdown until we arrive at the pathway leading to our country home.
The overused expression “there is no place like home” does not really do justice to the warmth, joy, laughter and bonding that take place during the period when families are back home.
And then finally, quarreling siblings are united, grievances are addressed and mended, scores of what has been done and what is left to be done are reviewed, and every waking day presents another opportunity for eating, drinking and all-round merriment leading up to Christmas and into the new year and at the end of these festivities, the communal spirit of Ndigbo is further strengthened.
When all these are over and families prepare to return to their various bases, there is a sense of sadness that descends upon the community as families watch their loved ones depart to far flung lands to continue the usual hustling and bustling activity.
They are left with a bittersweet ache in their hearts knowing that though they want their dear ones close, they are also wishing them success as they go out to conquer the world before them.
Okechukwu Nzeribe works with the Onitsha Chamber of Commerce, in Anambra State, Nigeria, and loves unveiling the richness of African cultures.