Image by wirestock on Freepik" target="_blank">Photograph — Wirestock/ Freepick

“Christmas was modest for me and my family last year due to the prevailing high cost of living,” shared Oche, an Estate Security Guard in Lagos. “From then until now, our income has not increased, so we do not anticipate so much for this Christmas.”

Last year, we began conducting an annual survey dubbed An Inflated Christmas to assess the expectations of Nigerians during the holiday. The aim is to gauge their enthusiasm for the season based on macroeconomic trends influencing spending decisions. Consequently, our focus is to comprehend consumer behaviour during the holiday.

Our survey uncovered insights into the Nigerian market, revealing that rising inflation significantly impacts people’s spending habits each year. While individuals desire to revel in a joyful Christmas, the reality of a ‘Detty December’ is no longer appealing, considering the challenges that follow in January.

Mosanya Abiodun, a music maker based in Lagos, mentioned that his Christmas celebration this year will be quieter compared to previous years. The prices of foodstuff and drinks have tripled,” he said. “Although my family initially planned a picnic for Christmas, we have surpassed our budget for food without being able to purchase all the necessary foodstuff, let alone drinks.”

In October 2023, Nigeria’s annual inflation rate reached 27.3%, marking its highest level since August 2005, up from 26.7% in the previous month, as reported by the National Bureau of Statistics. The surge in inflation was attributed to increased pressures stemming from the government’s removal of fuel subsidies in May and the depreciation of the naira following the Central Bank’s reduced interventions in the foreign exchange markets in June.

Food prices, a significant component of the Consumer Price Index (CPI) basket, rose to 31.5% in October, the highest since August 2005, compared to 30.6% in the preceding month. Ongoing security challenges in food-producing regions drove this escalation. Other CPI items, including housing & utilities, clothing and footwear, and transportation, also contributed to the upward trend.

The annual core inflation rate, excluding farm produce, reached a record 22.7% in October, surpassing September’s rate of 22.1%. Additionally, monthly, consumer prices increased by 1.7% in October, following a 2.1% rise in the previous month.

Even as challenges mount, some Nigerians are finding creative ways to make the most of their limited resources this season. Despite acknowledging the increased prices of goods and a weakened purchasing power, they are not ruling out the possibility of celebrating this festive season. Blessing Michael, a hairstylist, said, “Every Christmas, my siblings and I often take a trip to one of the beaches in Lagos to unwind for the year. However, this year, we’ve opted for an indoor Christmas, watching movies on Netflix and preparing our meals at home.” Her family is consciously reducing discretionary and impulsive spending traditionally associated with the holiday season. “Christmas this year will be low-key,” she said.

Nigerians are often recognized as some of the most optimistic and joyful individuals. According to the World Happiness Report, released by Sustainable Development Solutions in honour of the United Nations’ International Day of Happiness on March 20, 2023, Nigerians rank as the 95th happiest people globally.

Anita, a Private Chef, encapsulates this position by stating, “Once there is life, there is hope.” This year has been particularly challenging for her as she took on the responsibility of paying her house rent to have her twelve-year-old daughter live with her. Her daughter had stayed with her mother since infancy, allowing Anita, a young mother at the time, to establish a stable foundation for her life. Before this change, Anita had worked and lived in the accommodation provided by her expatriate employer for over five years.

Acknowledging the difficulties, Anita expresses gratitude for spending her first Christmas in 12 years with her child. “No matter our circumstances, whether we have a lot or not, having each other is what truly matters,” she adds.

Navigating hope in challenging circumstances varies from person to person. For some, confronting their reality directly and making decisions based on that vantage point is the preferred approach. Omotayo Yewande, a Church Administrator, articulates this sentiment, expressing gratitude for life and health as invaluable gifts that money can’t buy.

However, Yewande shares a contrasting perspective on the upcoming Christmas festivities. “To be honest, I am grateful to God for life and health because they can’t be bought. However, I’m not celebrating this Christmas, be it a low or high,” she explains. Yewande highlights the emotional toll, stating, “It takes a happy soul to want to have fun or go out. Even though I try to feign excitement, most times I fail at it. I am not so enthused about this Christmas.”

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