How do you mix your traditional family Christmas in Nigeria with friends in a brand new country? Munachiso Ogu-Jude, an international law student at Birmingham City University managed to do just that and is now looking forward to his fourth Christmas in the UK. He shares his experiences of adjusting to British festive celebrations.

I had my first Christmas in the UK back in 2012. This Christmas was spent in Birmingham. Prior to this Christmas, I had spent all my Christmas holidays in my family home in the rural part of Nigeria. During Christmas in Nigeria, my family members and I would usually travel to our country home, where we celebrated with our relatives who also come over for this same purpose. This is a tradition popular among the Ibo tribe of Nigeria, where I come from. I did not really know what to expect when I spent my first Christmas away from home.

I found the pre-Christmas activities really interesting. There were a lot of discount sales and pre-Christmas decorations in store. On 24 December, I was really amazed when I visited one of the local stores and saw a huge crowd of shoppers. I also noticed a sign saying that the store will be open for 24 hours! This was the first time I had seen such a sign. I could only think about what Christmas would be like considering the build-up to Christmas day. I had always wanted to have a white Christmas and I prayed that it would happen that year.

Finally the big day arrived. I said a quick prayer, thanking God for given me the opportunity to spend a Christmas in the UK. I watched a little TV and did some cooking with friends. It was a very calm day and it felt very different from Christmas in Nigeria, where we had family to celebrate with. I wanted to visit the city, but then I realised that the buses and trains where not running on this day. Initially, this made me feel sad and I wondered why there will be no proper transportation on Christmas Day. However, upon self-reflection, I realised that it was important for everyone to have a day of rest – including bus and train drivers! Christmas in the UK is not just the day but the entire season. I decided that I could still have fun on Christmas the Nigerian way by preparing in advance.

So in 2013, I decided to have friends over for Christmas. We decided it would be best that we spend the day together and a few days before, I did the shopping in preparation for Christmas. I joined the huge crowd of shoppers who were trying to buy all they needed for Christmas. On Christmas Eve, my friends came over and we had a movie night at my house. The next day being Christmas, we prayed together like we will do in Nigeria, and resumed the cooking of Nigerian meals. This Christmas did not feel different from Christmas in Nigeria. We ate, sang, danced, and played games like we do in Nigeria.

Christmas 2014 was hosted at a different friend’s house. We now have our own tradition of Christmas in the UK which is a blend of Christmas in Nigeria and Christmas in the UK.

I am currently looking forward to this Christmas and I am hoping that this will be the year I see my White Christmas.

Find out more about life as an international student at Birmingham City University.

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