Patrick Iroegbu - Umueze Umunumo
Nigeria time
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Chief (Dr.) Patrick Iroegbu
(The Ezumezu 1 of Agbaja-Mbano of Igboland)

Ladies and gentlemen, guests, friends of Igbo Cultural Association of Edmonton (ICAE) and our honourable committee of Elders, it is right to say, it is Christmas, an Igbo Christmas time. Be welcome! Be happy and spread the joy of Christmas to everyone around you.

As a fact that we need to restate, Igbo people of Nigeria and all over the world love Christmas and indeed celebrate it to the best of their cultural heart and soul. Christmas is called kreshmeshe in Igbo parlance. Every child is raised to adore it and to see it as a wonderful moment to share the joy of the birth of Jesus Christ. Christmas brings a moment in a year when all Igbo people living outside Igboland return home to the villages to reunite with their kit and kins. Father Christmas popularly known as Santa Claus for the Igbo is expressed in a popular cultural networking whereby everyone visits everyone else to share meals, gifts, money, snuff, drinks and stories. No one person dresses like Santa Claus to handout gifts. Santa Claus is therefore symbolized in parents, brothers, sisters, cousins, and guests who come by and appreciate each other with everyone else around. Without written or oral invitation before hand, visiting and being visited provides the opportunity to share and relate with one another. Failure to visit and being visited is considered a bad attitude and it will be openly criticized and condemned for a change. Both private and public events for development are also engaged in. Families discuss family affairs, settle grudges and grievances. Religious institutions and their ministers take advantage of the home-coming of people from towns to celebrate long masses, and organize activities for developments such as harvests and bazaars’ to raise funds.

The Igbo in general appropriate the Christmas message of - JOY to the World – The Lord is Born to rise to a merry Christmas for all. As such, people will turn to their right, and to left, will move forward, step backward and graciously hug and shake Christmas joy of hands. At this Igbo Christmas in Edmonton, this turning movement for joy was exercised and everyone loved it as it helped open up everyone with joyful greetings and moving around in the Ritchie Community Centre where the celebration was held.

The President fondly asked everyone how they felt after sharing the joy of shaking hands and greeting everyone around. Response was a chorus of feeling good! The CBC will otherwise say this experience as – keeping cool and kind! Culturally, the Igbo are warm people. We the Igbo signify a multiplicity of cultural guarantees of identity. We are happier. We laugh louder, and we are shrewdly assertive. Culturally we the Igbo are migrant-entrepreneurs, as we are noticeably out-going, solidly adaptive and immensely competitive. It is ‘noble’ that we are so. With hand shakes, hugs, big smiles, and of course, with our Kola nuts (oji) and kola nut accessories, we open our Igbo hearts and spaces of belongingness, accommodation and cheerful welcome.

As a pattern, a speech to Igbo audience will surely call for Igbo kwenu (a rally call for unity, agreement and support). Let me call you up and say “Che Che Che Igbo mma mma nu, nnuria nu, kwenu, kwezue nu --- e h h !!”

According to one Nigerian conservative music artist, popularly known as “Beautiful Nubia”, “life is to be seen as a wonderful gift to be lived and enjoyed.” And it goes with challenges too, because any life without challenges is not worth it” (Dec. 21, 2008). God was wise to give us life with challenges. We make and celebrate that life with Christ at Christmas. Igbo Christmas is a celebration of life with our families, friends and neighbours – cognisance of the love of Christ in our lives and society. Typically, the Igbo are very religious and the coming of every Christmas turns them on to be at peace and glorious to God and their neighbours.

The Igbo Association of Edmonton, ICAE was founded in 2002. It was distracted from its activities for about two years but has re-mobilized. And as your president with the entire board of directors, I want to invite all of you to recognize the need for a community life we can believe in. The executive members are so far doing wonderfully well, each identifying with roles and responsibilities that are good for us. A big thank you to all the board members namely –

Dr. Idong Obiefuna - Vice President
Barr. Ifeoma Okoye - Secretary
Penny Eleweke – Fin. Secretary
Jude Anawalam – Treasurer
Attorney Obi Agbarakwe – PRO
Nze Eleazar Nwachukwu – Social Director
Chief Ferdinand Mbajiogu – Provost
Emma Morah – Board Member – Pleni-Potentiary
Dr. Chiemeka B. Ihejirika (Ex-Officio, President)
Ifeanyi Uzoh - (Ex-Officio, President).

We hope to celebrate the next Christmas also in a recognizable way when we think awards will be handed out to ICAE members and friends who may distinguish themselves and contribute to the mission and goals of ICAE. Today count yourself and say like Obama has given to the world, “yes we can”. So see you then! The coming year 2009 will be a busy year for ICAE to keep alive. We will line up activities and meetings to move on. Continue to come and get involved. And let no one be afraid to talk to your team of leaders for effective community initiative and for providing leadership. Your views will help shape ICAE policies and concrete actions.

Quickly, ladies and gentlemen, let me respectfully recognize the absence of our late First President – Mr. Anselm Okereke who died on December 29th last year (2007). Two days away from today he will be one year old for a memorial rite of passage. Please stand up for a one minute silent in his honour! (please, the master of ceremony). May his soul continue to rest in peace, amen!

Let me also thank everyone here for braving the weather today to grace this occasion. Today is all yours to be merry. We have prepared for you. We have come to adore one another – as we adore Him, Christ the Lord. At the same time I add that: afoma chresmeshe dasa ICAE, dasakwara Ndi Igbo na ndi enyi nile in Canada and elsewhere Amen! As you look around, as the Igbo will say at home and among themselves: biko gbara m kreshemeshe (please do or celebrate Christmas for me) is clearly seen in the wonderful decorations of this hall, in the plenty of variety of intercultural dishes provided, in the diversity of people who have attended, in the mood of joy of our children punching the air around, in the excellent music blaring, in the manner of volunteerism we have put together as it has never happened in recent history, and more importantly, in the great spirit we have come down here to celebrate Igbo life, culture and Christmas. The Igbo Cultural Association of Edmonton will always be proud of you in the spirit of biko gbara m kreshemeshe for our love, dignity and community expression of our identity. Happy Christmas to you, and also to me.

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