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 | By Father Gerald Nwafor

Sunset in Africa During Easter

In eastern Nigeria, during Easter, two main dishes are prepared for the holiday: rice and chicken. Although these two foods have no symbolism related to the resurrection of Jesus Christ, they have everything to do with the happiness of our little community and, I can even say, the whole of Nigeria. Rice is not a very common food; it was seen as the food of the rich and likewise, so was chicken. One popular Igbo proverb demonstrates how coveted some foods are to the poor. It goes, onye ejiro ego ada-alo nlo ebe ona eri osipaka na ata anu okuko; which means, "A poor person will never experience eating rice and chicken in his dreams.”

Out of all the holidays, there is the most solidarity with the poor during the Easter season. The middle class prepares the rice and chicken to share with everyone, especially with those less fortunate, in order to reacquaint themselves. The joys of Easter, for Christians, surround the good news of Christ’s resurrection, but looking deeper, our joy also comes from the reunion of families from far and wide. During my youth, we would walk nine miles on foot every year to visit my grandmother and our cousins. It was a time for indulging in delicious food. We were privileged and blessed to cook the meal that we shared with family members.

The celebration always starts during the sunset of Holy Saturday. You hear mothers shouting to the male children of the family to come and hold the chicken so that ‘justice will be done,’ so to speak, to the chickens who, moments before, were running around the yard. You also hear them call for the female children to come and sieve the rice, making sure it is free of sand and stones. At this time everyone obeys their parents, aware that the consequence of not sharing in the rice and chicken Easter meal would be astronomically unbearable and that the chances of forgiveness are rare if you do not comply with parental commands.

Celebrations continue for the whole weekend until sunset of Easter Saturday, with the faces of men and women shining with delight and joy. Should Catholics cease celebrating Christ rising from the dead when Mass ends on Easter Sunday? By no means! For me, because I am in a foreign land with plenty of food and wealth, the focus here may not be rice and chicken, but there are other things we can do to bring happiness to people here in Silicon Valley. Chances are, you have never given a jacket to an unhoused man or woman who was not grateful. Nor has an unhoused person walked away from you when you stopped to talk with them. Regarding chicken, I am sure a homeless person has never refused the chicken nuggets you have given them.

These actions of love, and many others, are a different type of rice and chicken meals here in Silicon Valley because they bring happiness to the other person and the joy of Christ’s resurrection through our sharing of our abundance. Let us use our days for this purpose before the sun sets in this rich valley. There can never be too much goodness in the world. There is always enough rice and chicken, in all forms, for everyone.

Father Gerald Nwafor was born in Onitsha, Nigeria, as one of six siblings: five brothers, and one sister. Both of his parents were teachers. He is currently working on his doctorate at San Jose State University. He attended Bigard Memorial Seminary in Enugu, Nigeria and was ordained at St. Patrick's Cathedral in Awka, Nigeria, in 2003. He serves as the parochial vicar at St. Justin in Santa Clara, CA, and he enjoys playing and watching soccer, and reading.

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