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)
TEXT SIZE - +
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
...
 
🔇
X

You May Like

Multimedia Anti-Keystone XL Protests Continue

Demonstrators are worried about pipeline's effect on climate change, their traditional way of life, health and safety More

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 More

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

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid