Less travel, low-budget fun… Nigerians mark ‘silent Christmas’ amid biting inflation

By Genevieve Aningo

The world is in the season of Christmas. It is a season to share and spend quality time with families. The Christmas holiday is enticing not just because it’s a Christian festival but also due to the fact that it occurs at the end of the year and ushers in a new year.

It is almost everyone’s business; while some may not be celebrating based on religious tenets; others may be lured into the holiday mood because it falls in the last week of the year. 

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Behind the curtains of the fond memories we make or quality time spent with family are the layers of financial responsibilities that come with the season.

In our world, today, celebrating denotes taking some notes off a wallet. The Christmas season is one of the most expensive seasons when prices of common household essentials rise up. There is high demand for items ranging from Christmas food, decorations gifts, travel expenses, family photos, and sit-outs. According to data released by worldremit, it costs a household $309 to celebrate Christmas in Nigeria and this is just on Christmas food, decorations, and gifts.

With the current exchange rate that sum ranks up to N140, 000 for an individual. The figure for a nuclear or extended family is unimaginable. 

Nigeria’s inflation rate for the month of November sits at 21.47% and 63% of her population is already drowning in multi-dimensional poverty according to the National Bureau of statistics in the same month. Likewise, food inflation in the month of October was pegged at 23.34%. 

These situations are precarious because these paltry economic records are threats to the celebration of Christmas. The Christmas season still demands its rites of spending no matter the glooming economy.

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While most people may shun Christmas shopping, buying food is inevitable and the cost of staple food items such as rice, tomatoes, and bread has tripled.  For instance, a standard bag of rice is between N40, 000 to N55, 000 while a loaf of bread is between N800 and N1,200. 

These sad stories can drastically affect the spending habits of individuals and families or at worst steal the joy of Christmas.  It’s difficult to ascertain if Nigerians would still celebrate because other than food inflation, there are a plethora of other responsibilities to bear in this period of yuletide such as clothing, health, personal care, home refurbishment, electronics, automobiles etc.

In Nigeria, the lingering fuel scarcity, devalued currency, insecurity, upcoming election, naira redesign, new notes circulation among others have worsened the woes of citizens. 

Some Nigerians shared with CrispNg the realities of their 2022 Christmas season.

Joseph Ogbodo, an entrepreneur, alluded that the famous ’silent Christmas’ lyrics have finally happened in Nigeria because the streets which used to be bubbling are quiet due to the increased cost of goods in the market.

He explained: “Christmas is a season of celebrating love but in our country, Nigeria, it has really been crazy in the sense that everything is just on the high side. Eating three times a day in Nigeria is a luxury.   I am not feeling this year’s Christmas like the other previous Christmases, everyone is living Christmas like every other normal day.

“Children are no longer blowing knockouts and even fireworks as they used to.  When I was much younger I used to engage in a knockout competition with my peers. The current economic situation is appalling! A 50kg bag of rice ranges between N30, 000 to N50, 000.

“In 2021, a road trip from Lagos to Enugu state was between N15,000 and N18,000 but this year, it is almost N30,000 and what goes up never goes down with respect to price in Nigeria.

It’s better to stay back in the city and use that fare money for your celebration. I have not received any invitees lately; it is truly a ‘silent night’ and celebration; everyone is piping down to avoid spending excessively. I think it’s the politician that would enjoy this Christmas. Nothing enticing about this Christmas; I just can’t wait for it to be gone!”

Also speaking, Sule Abdulrahman, an auditor in a financial institution, opined that regardless of the scourging economic realities, there are reasons to merry and urged privileged Nigerians to help those in need.

He said: “Inflation rate is incredibly high at the moment. The cost of things is quite unfair. This makes it difficult for people to buy what they need; especially during the festive season.  Everyone needs to shrink their budget during this period. Prices of commodities are absurd. Everything needed this season has to be shrunken. Spend less. Travelling is not a necessity but depends on the need to travel.

“For me, I don’t have a need to travel for now; I would communicate with my family over the phone. I fear for families who don’t have much this Christmas because they won’t derive pleasure or joy from Christmas. It’s very sad and I urge families who have more to help those who have less. Notwithstanding, there is always a reason to celebrate and believe in God, as I do.  I am grateful for life and everyone should be grateful for the opportunity to celebrate another Christmas”. 

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