News / Africa

Some Losing Christmas Spirit in Cameroon

Cameroonian hawker in Douala sells Chinese products for Christmas (VOA / D. Ntaryike)
Cameroonian hawker in Douala sells Chinese products for Christmas (VOA / D. Ntaryike)
Ntaryike Divine Jr.
At one time, celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ was a big deal across predominantly Christian Cameroon. Worshippers of the Biblical savior, Muslims and even pagans in the Central African nation usually began preparations way in advance.

But in recent years, Christmas has steadily been losing appeal in many Cameroonian households. 

There seems to be a lack of enthusiasm apparent this year as I stroll along the major shopping districts of Cameroon’s largest city Douala. 

It’s only a few hours to Christmas day, and yet, I can hardly hear any carols blaring from roadside speakers. Only a small number of shop fronts and trees along the street are adorned with characteristic Christmas decorations.

On the streets, sweat-soaked hawkers and visibly nervous shop vendors are shouting discounts in an effort to entice scant numbers of last-minute Christmas shoppers. 

On trader tells me she has imported a container of toys, dresses, ornaments and electronic appliances, but has not sold up to a quarter of the seasonal goods.  She says she’ll either incur huge losses by selling the rest at giveaway prices or be stuck with them for one year.

Reports from rural areas indicate similar declines in enthusiasm.  About half of Cameroon’s 20 million inhabitants live in poverty and family wage-earners say the escalating cost of living no longer permits extravagant expenditures.

"The Christmas spirit is not still in me.  It’s not like it’s only me because even when you move on the streets, you don’t feel it," one Douala resident tells me. 

"I think," says another, "it’s because of the economic crisis we’re facing at this moment.  When you go to the markets and shopping centers, you see less people.  It’s not like the previous years."

In some homes, there’s tension.  According to the press, spouses are threatening divorce and kids are on the verge of unrest.  They don’t understand why they’re not getting budgets to cook special meals or for new dresses and toys.  

This might have been good news for some clergymen who have over the years frowned at the overly materialistic and commercial influences on Christmas.  But this year, there’s even apathy among some of the faithful.

"I don’t quite remember the last time I went for Christmas Eve," one man tells me. " It’s been about 4 or 5 years I’ve not been to church on Christmas Day and it’s really unfortunate because for a Christian, God is not going to be very happy with us."

"What if I go to church in the morning and then in the afternoon I don’t have anything to eat?  Then why will I be going to church?," says another.

One group stands out in the fairly subdued mood -- Chinese traders.  

Amid widespread inflation and the absence of locally manufactured goods, they’ve again topped sales charts with comparatively cheap products. Among the big sellers are three-piece suits for kids now selling for as little as five dollars.

"Chinese, yes.  Because we Africans have a bigger family so we’re thinking about everybody.  You cannot go and start buying expensive.  You buy cheaper and satisfy everybody," one shopper confides.

"I opt for Chinese goods because they’re cheaper even though they’re not durable but they provide much for less money," says another.

In the meantime, economists predict Christmases will be subdued as as long as the gloomy business climate and high unemployment rates continue.

Listen to report on Christmas in Cameroon
Listen to report on Christmas in Camerooni
|| 0:00:00

You May Like

Video Americans, Tourists, Reflect on Meaning of Thanksgiving

VOA garnered opinions from several people soon after November 13 Paris attacks, which colored many of their thoughts

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

In northern Thailand, the annual tradition of constructing floating baskets to carry away the year’s bad spirits highlights the Loy Krathong festival

Video Tree Houses - A Branch of American Dream

Workshops aimed at teaching people how to build tree houses have become widely popular in America in recent years

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

By the Numbers

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syriai
November 26, 2015 5:21 AM
Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs