How we Celebrate Christmas in Cameroon
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Christmas in Cameroon falls during the dry season. It’s usually hot and sunny out although once in a while, it rains the day or some few days before or after. Usually, being a very spiritual people, Cameroonians regard such a situation as a blessing. Note that the festival is celebrated both by Christians and pagans alike. On this day, you can’t differentiate between Christians and pagans because everybody celebrates it.
Gifts are bought, children know they will have new dresses and other things expected from their loved ones. It’s usually celebrated among family and friends with shared meals, drinks and merry making.
Schools go on holiday at least 1 week before the day. This holiday is generally called Christmas holiday. What is common amongst youths is the increase in their church activities. They go in for various church activities like carol singing, drama (usually the Nativty), and other interesting things to be done on the eve of that day (Christmas Eve). Children go carol singing on Christmas Eve from home to home where they are showered with gifts.
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Candlelight services are popular on Christmas Eve especially in the mainline churches like Catholic, Presbyterian and Baptist. In the morning, the churches are filled with regular and occasional Christians. Some pagans also attend these services just for the sake of having a glimpse of it or being spiritual during this period.
Santa Claus (called Father Christmas locally) is not so popular as kids rarely expect gifts from ‘him’. But for some years now, schools have been organizing end-of-year festivities where Christmas gifts are shared to pupils by Father Christmas (Santa Claus). Since chimneys are not a popular construction habit in Cameroon, you will not find children getting up in the morning to check if Santa Claus passed by and left something for them.
The Christmas tree is one of the most popular decorations during Christmas. At first, many people went natural by using the cypress tree to make their Christmas Trees (some people still respect this tradition). With the entry of Chinese businessmen, artificial Christmas trees are becoming very popular because they are cheap and many people can afford it. You can find lighting in the homes with other brightly colored decorations. Balloons are usually common especially with kids. There is a popular song sung by children this period when a balloon gets burst.
“Bolo-bolo (balloon) bos (burst), 10 francs go, Igbo man gain, small pikin loss”. Something like when your balloon gets burst, you loose your money and the seller gains (Igbo man since in the old days, Nigerian traders of the Igbo tribe were the ones having many shops in the English Speaking part of Cameroon).
The most common meal shared during Christmas is rice and chicken especially in the rural areas. Other dishes that could be found are Ndole and Yam, Achu and yellow soup, plantain and pork (Kondré), egussi (pumpkin seeds) pudding. It goes along with popular Cameroonian drinks (beer and whiskey for adults and soft drinks for kids).
Cracker, pop-corn, roast groundnuts, donuts and chingching are very popular snacks during Christmas. Chingching is a popular snack made with wheat flour and fried. Many homes have it in their menu and will be the first thing they will offer when visitors come. Others have added barbecue to spice the day.
People go visiting family and friends on Christmas day. The day after Christmas, Boxing Day is a holiday in Cameroon and people use this day to rest in the morning and go out late in the afternoon to have some good time.
The most popular greetings on this day is Merry Christmas or Happy Christmas. The answer to the latter is usually ‘Happy Happy’.