This holiday season, our #TheBestGiftIEverReceived 🎁 project shares the stories behind the best gifts ever received by people who have moved to the UK and have become our neighbours, friends and family. IMIX Steering Group member, Michael Butscher shares why this Christmas is exceptionally special, thanks to the publication of his memoir exploring Sierra Leone’s complex history.
This year, my Christmas is going to be a memorable one with a difference. I am set to formally present myself with the best Christmas gift I have ever received – the publication of my memoir, Creole Congau Journalist, just before Christmas Day.
Growing up in West Africa, in a country with strong Christian influence, the tradition of Christmas was, and still is, observed by almost every household even today, whether Muslim or Christian. As children, we looked forward to the day with longing as we knew we would be feted to abundant food and treats. Some parents allowed their children to wander around in their new clothes and shoes to visit relatives and friends’ houses. However, in my household, Christmas was a time for family togetherness, to eat, share and play at home. My mother ensured this part of our Christmas culture was strictly adhered to. Our parents were put under tremendous societal pressure to buy us gifts – clothes and toys – every Christmas and New Year, when we sang: ‘Appi New Year mi nor die oh’.
As we grew older and became parents ourselves, the pressure and responsibility transferred to us to treat our children during the joyous season. While in our days, new clothes and food were our priority, today’s children ask you for mobile phones, laptops, gameboards, especially when you are in exile where they believe you must have money to buy them goodies. Expectations are extremely high from not only your children but family and friends as well. ‘My Christmas is on you,’ my Liberian people would say, and Sierra Leoneans say: ‘Mi Chrismes Oh’.
The Christmas merriment and feasting went on a break in my life for nearly a decade until two years ago, when I received my first Christmas present after many years from my partner, who since then, won’t allow a Christmas season to pass by without celebrating.
This year, my Christmas is going to be a memorable one with a difference. I am set to formally present myself with the best Christmas gift I have ever received – the publication of my memoir, Creole Congau Journalist, just before Christmas Day. It is a reminiscence of my professional journey that nearly cost my life on two occasions in Sierra Leone and Liberia. It offers a critical analysis of the political history of two West African countries founded for the resettlement of black slaves from the Americas and England. The memoir delves into an analysis of slavery and reparations, corruption in Africa, racism in the USA and the UK, and other contemporary burning issues.
Publishing my memoir at Christmas gives me a high sense of fulfilment and pride to pass on to the world what I have seen and heard, what I experienced during my travels, a bit about my personal life and my views on topical issues affecting the world today. I started writing the book during the Covid-19 pandemic, a harrowing period when we were all house-bound for months praying not to catch a deadly virus that claimed the lives of 232,112 people across the UK. It was a good time for me to reflect on my professional journey and put my thoughts together while in enforced isolation.
This Christmas will be my best Christmas because after everything I went through to package a challenging intellectual effort, the book has become a reality at a time of goodwill, peace and joy. I cannot ask for a more timely gift. Merry Christmas to me!