I’d been thinking about writing a blog on Christmas in Africa when I saw Jina Moore write a similar posting. With Abidjan switching on the biggest festive lights display it’s ever had, the transformation seems almost complete in the last ten years as Western Christmas culture takes over. Until a few years ago, Christmas was out-classed by the New Year’s eve celebrations, but a sort of global Christmas culture does seem to be settling with the virtual snowflakes.
Many more homes now have access to satellite television thanks to cheaper rates for Canal and with it a bombardment of advertising and seasonal programming that portray a Christmas of snow, nights by the fire and turkey, that are totally alien to Africa. I wonder if this is sowing a degree of frustration – pushing someone else’s Christmas culture into Ivorian lives. One need only look at the giant illuminated Christmas tree in the Plateau district – Ivory Coast has some amazing trees, but the northern European pine is not one of them.
Fortunately there are some local variants – the emphasis on celebrating with the wider extended family, the all-night praise and prayer meetings at church, the concern that the end of the year is a mystically dangerous one (lots of unexplained deaths and accidents) and the baoule nativity crib scenes, to name just a few.