Sweet memories and ongoing events have conspired to make Christmas my favorite time of year.
As far back as Achimota Primary in the 1980s, it was both what the season promised and the processes leading to it that caused positive stirrings in our boarding school. After three or so months of intense school work away from home, the impending holidays was always eagerly anticipated as good food aka ‘homemade’, reconnecting with ‘home’ friends and extra frenetic footballing activity beckoned. While it could be argued that this would be the case for all holidays, Christmas was always special.
Even the air was different. Harmattan had stamped its harsh authority on the school’s trees and air and almost everywhere one passed, our lips, well soaked in oil by our School Aunties, provided ample evidence of the pervading crusty brown dryness and harmattan chill. At one year’s Christmas party in Lower Primary, there was our favorite jollof and chicken in ample supply. Those were the days when one did not consume chicken ‘by heart’ anytime of the year. Each child would receive one small gift or the other. Everybody seemed to be in high spirits and our sonorous laughter reverberated through the corridors.
As an adult, years later, these holidays would be taken up by weddings and other events so much so that to my mind, Christmas has gradually become the season for weddings with the adorable sight of coordinated family effort on the big day etched on my mind. With family and many classmates abroad, christmas has also become the homecoming season and on two occasions, Linda Bartels, Dzifa Bampoh – Dzi-dzi— and Philip Zumanu have put together the kind of get-together in Valery Vardon’s house that have helped me dance and reconnect with old friends like Lightening, Adoma and Asafo-Agyei.
In Upper Primary, some effort was put in by our teachers to remind us that the season had value beyond voracious appetites. This found expression in nativity plays in which we played our parts. The secondary department –Achimota School— also became another battleground. As it turns out, Achimota has reputedly the best carols service or festival of nine lessons and carols in the world. We later discovered that each year, two carols services were organized by Achimota; an internal one for the staff and students to be followed a few days later by an external one to which parents and other members of the general public were invited. As an appendage of the secondary department, there was always reserved for Achimota Primary, a special role in the external event: two of the nine lessons were read by our pupils. It was decided that the two would be the Girls and Boys Senior Prefects which is why and how in class six, Cynthia Bedwei and yours truly respectively, had the distinct honor and privilege to go and read in the Aggrey Chapel. I do indeed recall that while Cynthia turned up adorned in a pink dress, the son of man appeared in a pair of black shorts and white shirt.
Arriving in the Aggrey Chapel before 700pm, we returned to our dormitories chaperoned by our teachers before midnight. It was truly exciting and different.
At exactly 700am, the lights in the Aggrey Chapel were suddenly turned off with lit candles, borne by Kenn Kafui’s choristers beautifully adorned in black and white, our only glitter of hope. Arranged in two rows in the aisle, they subsequently made a grand entrance with a truly melodic rendition of “Once in Royal David’s City.” The uninitiated would inevitably be hit by a sweet mixture of surprise and awe as the choir slowly but steadily made their way to their pews.
Kenn Kafui’s Achimota School choir with Placca on keyboard and my own House Master Hanson Evenononyo Bright on the violin was also the best in the world. They lifted up our spirits with inspirational music. There was always a fine repertoire of Western classics—Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring, and choral African music like Kenn Kafui’s own compositions—the ones that would later catch national choral attention— like Mida Akpe Na Mawu. This would perhaps become the best demonstration of the spirit of Achimota as explained symbolically by founding father Aggrey, that to create perfect harmony, one needed both the white and black keys of the piano. Although sheer discipline required that ‘common floor members’ refrain from singing along with careless abandon as the choir performed, or clapped before they were finished, some performances proved so outstanding that on occasion, we would break out in good cheer. Those were such good days. So good in fact that although I would later experience our festival of nine lessons and carols about fourteen other times, not once did I leave unimpressed and not once did I tire of it. Achimota would also drum home how these functions were deeply anchored on the seven ideals of the school including the seventh that there was “The belief, on which all else rests, in Jesus Christ as the revelation for all time and all peoples of the love of God, and as the guide and pattern of our lives.”
These days, in addition to all the above, one finds that there tends to be more giving than receiving during christmas especially as the children pop out. Further, showing Christmas love via telephone appears to have taken center stage with psychedelic SMS holding sway. This is why thus far; I am ploughing through almost two hundred text messages. And these are not simple messages. Catchy and creative, they threaten to outdo each other as all teach, all learn and all share!
From Reverend Ato Dickson in LightHouse Chapel International, I got “Merry Christmas. May you have the Spirit of Christmas which is Peace, the Gladness of Christmas which is Hope and the heart of Christmas which is love.” This was soon followed by another rhythmic one saying “May the sweet magic of Christmas not only fill your heart and soul but also spread to your dears and nears. Wishing you a Christmas filled with fun and joy. Merry Christmas and a happy new year!”
My friend Ernest Ankomah came in with an aerodynamic twist, “Welcome on board December Airways, Flight 031 Days. We will be flying at 100 percent success level and 30, 000 ft. above failure. Tighten your seatbelt and relax as we are about to take off with pilot Jesus en route 2013 Airport. We shall be stopping over at Divine breakthrough, Massive prosperity and abundant blessings Airports. You and your family will surely land safely at 2013 International Airport. Give me a big amen!” Meanwhile Stephen Perdison, a veritable no nonsense General of our beloved “G3 Army”, for whom finesse and poetry remain totally alien concepts, had this wicked reply to my best effort at crafting a home grown poetic christmas message, “Rubbish to Sodzi and good will to Adorkor. Many happy returns.” With friends like these, who needs enemies at Christmas?
I have to go. My cousin Mawuse Tettey’s grand Christmas wedding beckons today and typical of the times, she has religiously chosen her colors: hot pink and mauve. Why won’t the ladies spare colour-challenged folks like me the agony of deciphering psychedelic hues like burnt orange, fuscia and lemon green and simply opt for straight forward options like red, green and white?
Of course, those would be Christmas colors!
27th December, 2012
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