Editor’s note: It’s official, Christmas is here! In Nigeria, Christmas is the time to exchange gifts that people can actually use – eat. Naij.com contributorIfeyinwa Nzeka lists some of the food gifts Nigerians love to give out or exchange at Christmas.
Christmas isn’t just about the day, it’s also about the buildup and the days leading up to it. Soon and very soon, my Igbo brothers and sisters will start traveling “home”, the expressways will get busy and the hustle and bustle in major cities will slow down and a city like Lagos will have a calm atmosphere for this period. It is only during this period that the words “calm” and “Lagos” are allowed to be used in the same sentence.
But most importantly, gifts and hampers will start flying around, left, right and center! Oh Christmas in Naija! You can see and sense the happiness in the air which translates to “money” in the air! It’s been a good year so there are bonuses, there is “13th month” pay, suppliers and contractors seize the opportunity to thank their benefactors and there is all around goodwill. No doubt, it is a very merry jolly season!
Talking about gifts and hampers, here is a rundown of the most popular Christmas food gifts you will find “flying around” around this season in Naija!
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1. Bags of rice
This has to be number one! Whether its employers giving this to their employees (and in some organizations, this might be considered the “Christmas bonus”) or family friends to family friends, children to parents… With Nigerians love for rice, this seems to be an easy gift choice everyone wouldn’t mind having. Over the years, some of us have received enough rice to last one full year! Bring on the rice! Whether it is a full bag, half bag or quarter bag, be mindful who you are sending it to so that that half bag of rice will not be the reason you loose that contract in the New Year!
2. Cooking oil
Whether it’s a bottle, a gallon, a keg or a carton, one can’t go wrong with vegetable oil which usually accompanies the bag of rice! There is always a need to make stew or fry plantain or yam in every Nigerian household so it is not difficult to see that this is a popular food gift option.
Live or frozen chicken, turkey, goat, ram and even cow are definitely food gifts you would find being delivered to homes this season! Yes o, we mean “homes” because no one will appreciate a live goat showing up in their office.
There are hampers and there are hampers, biko! Right from when I was a child, I have associated Christmas in Nigeria with receiving hampers and even though in my adult life, I haven’t received many, if any (LOL), growing up, my mum was the personal assistant to the “boss” of a fast moving consumer goods company and you know what that means: the hampers came rolling in, basket after basket after basket. The hampers that were “praised” and stood the test of time were the big baskets that came full with assorted cereals, exotic teas, hot chocolate and coffee, assorted biscuits and chocolates! Those were the ones that “made sense”! There was also this hamper that was more of a “cold” hamper that came with sausages, ham, bacon, salami etc. Those types of hampers are IT! Finito! So if you decide to send out a hamper this Christmas, send one that makes sense!
5. Boxes of chocolate or assorted cookies
This could just be between friends, neighbors, acquaintances or colleagues but an unexpected, lovely box of chocolate or cookies could be worth more than a hamper because there are sometimes when it really is the thought that counts….
6. Bottles of alcoholic drinks
Whether this comes in a hamper, on its own or in a carton, a bottle or a carton of wine, port, champagne or “hot drinks” aka liquors like vodka, gin, whisky, or my personal favourites at Christmas – cream, chocolate or coconut liquor, always make for a great gift. If you decide to give just a bottle, which is fine, make sure it’s a good one!
7. Cartons of soft drinks
Carton of juice, soft drinks or beer; this is a popular Christmas food gift you can’t go wrong with! Just know and remember the household you are giving those cartons of beer to, lest it be a “no alcohol” household!
Hmmm, I can write an epistle about this but I won’t. Simply put though, a cake, plain or frosted/iced is a lovely gift to give at Christmas but please, don’t just get any cake you see packaged in the market or roadside store just for the sake of gift giving because you do not want your “gift” to end up in the bin along with major beef for you! It makes sense to know the baker or at least, you should have tasted the cake and attest to its taste and quality. If you have it in you though, you could awaken your inner Martha Stewart and bake it yourself! A homemade gift always works!
9. Chin chin
We surely can’t talk about food gifts and not talk about chin chin. I think it is great gift to give a friend, neighbour or family (make it a large jar and make sure it is crunchy and delish!) because people always have more guests this season and a serving of chin chin with some peanuts and a drink is a great way to entertain in the absence of proper food. You will be appreciated for ensuring your friend, neighbor or colleague had chin chin handy!
Finally, when you do send out a gift, don’t forget to add a personal touch and send it out with a card addressed by you! Did we leave out any of your favorite food gifts to have or to give? Let us know in the comments.
Ifeyinwa Nzeka is a Cordon Bleu trained chef, hospitality practitioner and blogger who is passionate about Nigerian food and cuisine.