Merry Christmas to you from Ghana. It is a bit late, but the season is celebrated here with a different type of flair than one is accustomed to in America. First, there is no snow nor small evergreen trees to chop down and decorate which makes the season feel a bit more like Florida than I would rather have (without offending southerners, how do you celebrate the day without putting on a coat and turning up the thermostat a bit?). Second, while you may be buying a gift or two, rampant commercialism has not made the in-roads in Ghana to date. No commercials, no repetitive music, no wishes for a Merry Christmas one month before the day rolls around. It is different.
I was happy to take a short trip back to my homestay village and spend the day with my adopted family. Their celebration was probably like most: not much celebrating. Most will go to their church to take part in the celebration of the birth of Jesus, but in our quarters there was too much time preparing all the food to include a trip to the chapel and spend two or three hours honoring the savior of mankind. A goat was slaughtered (I did not watch that as I figured the very spry goat was going to complain about that greatly and it was just not the moment to go and enjoy such a ritual), yams, plantains, and other foods were prepared, and we all sat down by dinner time to enjoy some delicious food. This is the custom: you eat and eat and eat, and then you wait for friends and family to stop by so that you can invite them to eat with you. Naturally they have been eating all day too, but everyone is just enjoying the time off and recalling stories. It was a lot of fun obviously.
Where were the presents? There were no presents wrapped and there were no stockings hung with care mainly due to the fact that not many homes require a fire place anywhere within the house. From what I have been hearing from most of my cohorts and Ghanaian friends, there is little gift-giving tradition in the country. The celebration pretty much comes from the eating part, not the recreation of the three wise men bearing gifts. The only stocking I saw was my own that my mother had sent in her latest care package. It's been with me for almost all of my Christmas's and it was great to have it hanging in my house to remind me what time it was. Yet there were no presents exchanged on Christmas day or Boxing day to be seen which may vary between regions of the country. I don't think Volta participates in presents though.
No Christmas tree, no Christmas lights, no colorful presents to wake up to on the morning of the big day. Everyone I saw was happy though, so it is very possible to enjoy yourself without all the trappings of the Western way of things but I still felt a bit sad that I didn't get home and see everyone for a bit of holiday cheer. I did make a call home on the 25th and it was great to hear the voices so familiar to the holiday. It wasn't the same as being there of course, but it was a way lift my spirits a bit and enjoy the day more with the nice people in Asafo.
I would say that the holiday is nice here, but it still could use some flashing white lights and maybe 20 degree temps. I might celebrate it next year inside a freezer.