Thursday, December 12, 2013

An African Christmas

Being here in Africa, it doesn’t really feel like Christmas.  I’ve spent the majority of my Christmas holidays in either the U.S. or Europe.  But even when I’m in Europe and not with family, it still feels like Christmas.  Part of that is probably because it’s cold, but also because you see reminders of the holiday everywhere.  One of my favorite things in the world is going to see the Christmas tree in front of Notre Dame and the animatronic windows at Galeries Lafayette in Paris:
I spent one Christmas in Dubai and another in India.  Both of those Christmases were nice.  In the resorts and hotels you would see Christmas trees and Santa Claus. I remember getting my picture taken with Santa at the Atlantis Resort in Dubai.  Of course, as you can see here, Santa was significantly more petite and tan than what I remember as a kid:
India was another fun Christmas.  There was no Christmas music or cold weather, but at least there was a tree made entirely out of poinsettias.  Poinsettias are grown mostly in Mexico, Australia, Malta and Egypt, so this must have been a pretty costly tree for the hotel where we were staying:
But Christmas this year is a little different.  There are no Christmas parties or gifts being exchanged.  Occasionally you hear Christmas music interspersed among African house music and traditional tribal rhythms and there are a few Christmas decorations in the malls.  Of course, on the one hand I feel as if someone just took all the western holiday decorations they could find and put them all up together.  In the mall the other day there was a small Christmas tree flanked by two 8-foot tall blue Easter bunnies holding baskets and eggs.  But the bunnies were gone today, so apparently someone alerted the mall cops to the mistake.

Back home Christmas is not my favorite holiday, which is probably why I don’t feel compelled to participate, and often travel instead.   I don’t like the pressure of gift-giving and one-upsmanship when it comes to competing to see who gave (or received) the best present.  I much prefer Thanksgiving or even July 4th.  I like an excuse to get together with friends and family, but don’t like the consumerism attached to Christmas.  I’m told that Christmas here is more like our Thanksgiving because people gather together to celebrate, but there are no grand gestures or gifts involved.

Over the last few days I’ve seen the Facebook traffic related to Christmas pick up significantly for my friends back in the States and in Europe.  It would be nice to see everyone, but I like this slower paced Christmas season here better.  Happy African Christmas Everyone!

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