Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Party Favors in Nigeria

As noted previously, Nigerians do not mess around with their celebrations- they do it right and do it big. Accordingly, they do not mess around with party favors. None of this bundle of after-dinner mints or Hershey's kisses business like we do in America (Please note: Yes, I know sometimes there are substantial party favors in the U.S., and no I don't have a problem with Hershey's kisses as a party favor). Oh no, if you have a birthday/engagement/wedding/funeral celebration here, you give substantial party favors- that's just part of the package. Most of the time the party favors are genuinely useful items; common favors include plastic bowls or buckets, tupperware, cups, and notebooks. In addition, around my host family's house and other home's I've visited I have seen towels, pens, mugs, umbrellas, plates, and every conceivable size of plastic bin/bucket/bowl that are party favors from the myriad celebrations they've attended. 

How would I KNOW these everyday household items are party favors, you may wondering? The thing is, party favors usually include 'labels' to identify the occasion, date, celebrant, as well as the giver of said favor. This is because (as I learned from my host sisters) it's most common for relatives and friends to be responsible for the favors. So for example, if I get married, my brother, my fiance's sister, my aunt, and his cousin may each decide to make various party favors to give out to people they know at the wedding (because typically everyone in the family gets to invite all THEIR friends and receptions are at least 500 people). Depending on the wealth of the family and the individuals involved, they may get plates, cups, mugs, and bowls, all given "by" different people but all "for" the celebrant. Thus, every guest leaves the celebration with some kind of favor, and your status as a guest often determines what kind of favor you receive, if their are multiple kinds of favors. For instance, at a wedding, if you're a close family friend you might receive a set of wine glasses, but if you're a friend-of-a-friend you might receive a plastic bowl. Whereas at a birthday party for a 5 year old, the parents will likely have purchased all the favors and (most) everyone will receive the same favor.

So. Let me show you some examples of party favors that were around my house when I arrived, as well as a few I have acquired in my two short months. In my place I had some tupperware, plenty of buckets and bowls, and a mug from birthdays and weddings:

In my two months I have been two three birthday parties of older people (70th, 75th, and a joint 50th/60th birthday party) and one kid's birthday party, as well as to several parties on induction day for medical students. I didn't take favors at all of the parties, and I didn't photograph all the ones I have, but here are a few:
Notebooks seemed to be the staple favor at all the inductions. The one on the top left was given to me when I first arrived and needed a notebook for Yoruba lessons. This person has an entire shelf in her office of party-favor notebooks. Not only are their pictures on the front and back, but every page has the celebrant's name on it.

A hand towel from one of the induction parties. Here's a good example of "status" impacting the favor you receive. I was just tagging along with my supervisor, who is an MD and professor, so he visited many induction parties. At this particular party, I received a hand towel, while he received a bottle of wine.

This is an example of a really nice party favor. This is a ceramic (I think) bowl, and the label is printed on it, rather than a sticker. Definitely the fanciest favor I've received so far.

I heard a rumor of weddings where the family is so wealthy that they give out cell phones as party favors. I suspect this may be more "urban legend" than anything, but I'll be sure to let you know if I luck out.


Anonymous said...

Liz -so awesome to have my culture viewed through foreign lenses. This is like an anthropology lesson. Things I don't even give second thought to all of a sudden become interesting when analyzed the way you do :) - D

AnnaBanana said...

I have a notebook with Tobi's name and face all over it, i love it! her mom made it for the graduation. I found it interesting, but now I see it's a common-sense thing. The print shops in Nigeria must have goooood business!

Liz Spangler said...

D- I just hope I'm doing alright with accuracy! Glad you've enjoyed so far!

Anna- Yes, it's a verrrry good business!

Toun said...

The list of party favors is endless : can openers,umbrellas,bathroom slippers,tote bags and even Ankara materials.It's gotten to the point that I have become selective in accepting some of these items because I end up filling the house up with several of the same items and they end up constituting a nuisance.However , no party is complete without those favors,they are the icing on the cake.

Emellia said...

Liz! This is so interesting!

Andy said...

I have a notebook with Tobi's name and face all over it, i love it! her mom made it for the graduation.

Anonymous said...

Very interesting blog....and nice to see a non-Nigerian's perspective of Nigeria :-). About the cell phones as favours though, it is true...a friend of mine received one from a wedding, which I saw myself, with a label of the couple's name on it, just like in the pictures u have, albeit smaller...but it is quite rare, and the phones given would usually be basic phones, and only to a few select people.