Christmas in Africa

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.

This entry was posted in Culture. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Christmas in Africa

  1. Mike says:

    Idle question, but… how much of what you’re seeing is the influence of global (read Western/Euro) television culture, and how much of it is influenced or imported by Westerners/Europeans actually living in CDI? It would be somewhat typical of expat aid communities, for example, to expend more effort trying to make it a bit more like home than trying to settle in and learn something of local culture.

    • admin says:

      Good question. I don’t think expat aid communities have too much influence on the wider society. They tend to live in their own enclaves. What I’m saying may be more linked to a certain segment of Ivorian middle class society, but still Ivorians tell me that for instance the habit of buying presents for Christmas day (for Muslim and Christian families) is a new phenomena. Access to the french-language Canal satellite tv network is widespread, though aid communities tend to favour the anglophone DSTV, if they watch tv at all. The plethora of Christmas toys at the market in Adjame, within which few expats venture, I think backs up my argument.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.