Celebrating Christmas, the Igbo way in the US, at Saint Patrick's in Bridgeport

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. - Hartok -- For years, the Igbos of Nigeria, their Yoruba brethren, and others who feel connected to the Igbos have been congregating on the last Sunday of every month at Saint Patrick's for mass and worship. Members feel like they are closer to God when they worship in their native language.

This year's (12/25/2022) Christmas provided more energy to the already thrilled congregation. The Igbos, like Christians everywhere in the world, love to show up and worship on Christmas day. Children show up in their fresh-smelling shirts, pants, and dresses, with hats, hair scarves, and shoes to match. Igbo women and men dress up impressively during  Christmas Sunday as well.

The presider priest, Father Agu, had two other priests in his company. During the sermon, walking from the middle part of the altar to the left, he stops periodically.

"Did you know," he said, "God and man had a great union until man (represented by Adam and Eve) sinned against God and broke that relationship.

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Aghast by why the priest brought up the Adam and Eve story during the Christmas celebration, the congregants watched and listened silently.

"When Adam and Eve disobeyed God," the Presider Priest continued, "it was like a bridge connecting humans and God had been broken. That sin brought darkness, suffering, and misery upon mankind."

Pivoting back to the Christmas event, Father Agu said, "through Mary, Jesus, the son of God was born with the sole mission of reconnecting mankind with God and restoring the trust broken by Adam and Eve. Had Mary not given consent to carry Jesus, the son of God in her womb, none of these: the birth of Jesus, the forgiveness of sin, and salvation would have happened. What awesome powers women have."

Then, quickly, he walked back to the center of the altar, raised his two hands up while looking at the congregants, and he began to sing the popular Igbo song that honors the power and strength of Igbo women. "My mother, my beautiful most loved mother, I will do only the best things for you." Everyone joyfully joined in the chorus.

Though the younger congregants did not fluently speak or understand the Igbo language,  they still felt enchanted listening to their parents' worship in their heritage language. To further appreciate their presence, the Priest invited them to come near to the altar, where he blessed them and prayed for their success, safety, and wisdom.

Next, congregants gathered and posed several times in multiple combinations in their glowing dresses. After that, congregants exited the church side door, turned left, and went into a decorated reception where folky Music greeted them. Later, they enjoyed the usual Igbo delicacies of egusi soups, fried rice spiked with chicken drums, tennis ball-sized puff puffs, and red delicious Moi Moi.


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Source: Anselm Chibuike Anyoha MD

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