It Feels Like Christmas In Senegal
The observation of the Christmas holiday around different parts of the world varies from one nation to another. However, the Christmas day, and in other cases, the day before and the day after, are also recognized by most states and uphold by many cultures around the world, including nations with Christians as a minority.
Senegal is one such country. Here, the Muslim population forms about 95% of the population in the hottest region of the world. However, it is common to stumble upon decorations such as Christmas trees, with cotton snowballs, and the traditional masks which have been covered in decorated Christmas lights.
Religious Tolerance and Culture
In Senegal, the term religious solidarity is preferred to tolerance. The locals are uncomfortable with the word `tolerance` since it inherently means something wrong that however, must be tolerated. The Muslim majority don’t like to feel like they are more superior in some ways over their Christian brothers and sisters because of their numbers. This aspect is clearly upheld in `Teranga`, which is the cornerstone of the Senegalese community. Therefore, Christmas in Senegal can be celebrated just like Christmas anywhere else in the world!
When walking down the streets of Dakar, it looks more like Christmas in this densely Muslim populated region. Even the grand mosque, which dominates the city’s skyline, glows in bright and vibrant holiday lights. Children learn of Santa in schools and from their few catholic friends, who mostly live in the south of Senegal.
All signs of the holiday are prevalent in the capital during Christmas. Flocked green plastic trees are sold in every corner of the streets. Several Christmas baby sleepers are neatly folded and sold a long side piles of second-hand clothing on the street. Also, French buches de noel and chocolate snowmen are up for sale in various patisseries. During afternoons, a chorus of children can be heard singing `silent night` across courtyards.
Common Christmas Traditions
Just like most parts of the world, Senegal celebrates the Christmas holiday on the 25th of December. However, not all states in Africa celebrate their Christmas on 25th. Others such as Egypt and Ethiopia hold their holiday according to the Julian calendar, therefore celebrating Christmas on the 7th of January. Some of the common Christmas traditions in Senegal include:
- Going to Church. Although there is just a small number of Christians in the country, going to church is a must for them. Their Muslim brothers usually decorate some mosques with Christmas trees in solidarity with them. Church ceremonies will involve carols, nativity play, and dances. Also, churches in Senegal are also very significant during the holiday especially in providing food relief and other essentials to the needy within the community.
- Dinner. In Senegal and Africa at large, Christmas dinner is the best opportunity for family gatherings. Since it is a public holiday, all family members usually are in attendance for this festive meal which also acts as a family reunion. Those who reside in cities always find their way to the rural to meet their families. Christmas is always a time to remember in Senegal.
- Gifts. Like most of the world, Christmas and gifting also go hand in hand in Senegal. Although a bigger percentage is not able to afford the luxury lifestyle, gifting still remains an integral aspect of Christmas celebrations.
If you have never taken the time to experience Christmas in Senegal, then this is the time to do so. You will not only experience the holiday vibe but also encounter the different culture and heritage of this amazing nation.