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
...    
🔇
X

You May Like

Hostage Crisis Could Divide Japan Over Plans to Boost Military

Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said Monday the government is working closely with the Jordanian government to secure the release of remaining Japanese hostage Kenji Goto More

Video Brussels Shaken as New Greek Leader Challenges Europe’s Austerity Drive

Country's youngest ever PM Alexis Tsipras, 40, sworn in Monday and says he will restore dignity to Greece by ending spending cuts More

Multimedia National Geographic Photo Camps Empower Youth

Annual mentoring program's mission is to give young people a voice to tell their own stories through photography 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.
Obama Urges Closer Economic Ties During Historic India Visiti
X
Aru Pande
January 26, 2015 9:33 PM
U.S. President Barack Obama says the United States and India must do better to capitalize on untapped potential in their economic relationship - by removing some of the roadblocks to greater trade and investment. As VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports from New Delhi, Obama spoke after participating in India’s Republic Day celebration.
Video

Video Obama Urges Closer Economic Ties During Historic India Visit

U.S. President Barack Obama says the United States and India must do better to capitalize on untapped potential in their economic relationship - by removing some of the roadblocks to greater trade and investment. As VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports from New Delhi, Obama spoke after participating in India’s Republic Day celebration.
Video

Video US, EU Threaten New Russia Sanctions Over Ukraine

U.S. President Barack Obama has blamed Russia for an attack by Ukrainian separatists that left dozens dead in the port of Mariupol and cast further doubt on the viability of last year’s cease-fire with the Kyiv government. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports from Washington.
Video

Video White House Grapples With Yemen Counterterrorism Strategy

Reports say the U.S. has carried out a drone strike on suspected militants in Yemen, the first after President Barack Obama offered reassurances the U.S. is continuing its counterterrorism operations in the country. The future of those operations has been in question following the collapse last week of Yemen’s government. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Kerry Warns Against Violence in Nigeria Election

US Secretary of State John Kerry visited Nigeria Sunday in a show of the level of concern within the U.S. and the international community over next month’s presidential election. Chris Stein reports.
Video

Video Zoo Animals Show Their Artistic Sides

The pursuit of happiness is so important, America's founding fathers put it in the Declaration of Independence. Any zookeeper will tell you animals need enrichment, just like humans do. So painting, and even music, are part of the Smithsonian National Zoo's program to keep the animals happy. VOA’s June Soh met some animal artists at the zoo in Washington. Faith Lapidus narrates.
Video

Video Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youth

Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Saudi, Yemen Developments Are Sudden Complications for Obama

The death of Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah and the collapse of Yemen’s government have cast further uncertainty on U.S. efforts to fight militants in the Middle East and also contain Iran’s influence in the region. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports on the new complications facing the Obama administration and its Middle East policy.
Video

Video Progress, Some Areas of Disagreement in Cuba Talks

U.S. and Cuban officials are reporting progress from initial talks in Havana on re-establishing diplomatic ties. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State (for Western Hemisphere Affairs) Roberta Jacobson said while there was agreement on a broad range of issues, there also are some “profound disagreements” between Washington and Havana. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins has the story.
Video

Video US, Japan Offer Lessons as Eurozone Launches Huge Stimulus

The Euro currency has fallen sharply after the European Central Bank announced a bigger-than-expected $67 billion-a-month quantitative easing program Thursday - commonly seen as a form of printing new money. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London on whether the move might rescue the eurozone economy -- and what lessons have been learned from similar programs around the world.
Video

Video Nigerian Elections Pose Concern of Potential Conflict in 'Middle Belt'

Nigeria’s north-central state of Kaduna has long been the site of fighting between Muslims and Christians as well as between people of different ethnic groups. As the February elections approach, community and religious leaders are making plans they hope will keep the streets calm after results are announced. Chris Stein reports from the state capital, Kaduna.
Video

Video As Viewership Drops, Obama Puts His Message on YouTube

Ratings reports show President Obama’s State of the Union address this week drew the lowest number of viewers for this annual speech in 15 years. White House officials anticipated this, and the president has decided to take a non-traditional approach to getting his message out. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video S. Korean Businesses Want to End Trade Restrictions With North

Business leaders in South Korea are calling for President Park Geun-hye to ease trade restrictions with North Korea that were put in place in 2010 after the sinking of a South Korean warship.Pro-business groups argue that expanding trade and investment is not only good for business, it is also good for long-term regional peace and security. VOA’s Brian Padden reports.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid