In my view Christmas has unfortunately turned from a family (and before that, religious) tradition to a crude manifestation in consumerism and materialism. From a Western perspective, the hunger for new gadgets and stuff that we think we need at this time of a year gets absurd, especially when living in a developing country and seeing the everyday struggle of many just in order to survive. I was therefore wondering if Christmas might be different here in
My impression is however that it is surprisingly similar. Most people in
When people lack the resources to match all the squander expectations of Christmas, they seek other means. We were thus told by the UN security people to be extra careful during December, since the number of robberies and thefts always jumped significantly during this time of year. And a friend of ours actually told us that when they came home some days before Christmas some years ago their DVD was gone and the household cleaner was never seen again. Apparently she was willing to give up here job (in a country with 24% unemployment) and to take the risk of getting caught just to get hold of this gadget for her self or as a gift.
Candidly complaining about all the expenses they would have for gifts, food and beverage, our own household staff fortunately took another strategy. Instead of stealing, they asked for their January salary in advance and hinted that there is a tradition of giving some extra pay for Christmas (which we were intending to do in any case). Many companies seem to offer an extra month’s salary in December, and considering the average wage they pay and the price level of imported goods in
However, when I met our guard again after Christmas, the first thing he showed me was a new fancy watch on his wrist, after which he almost immediately made a long list of all the expenses he had had because of Christmas and then he asked me for yet another advance. Why? Well, he had used 1/3 of the previous advance to make a down payment on a used TV and now he needed to take another loan in order to pay the rest of it.
I have come to know this guy and his family quite well, and I know that he is very poor, living on one wage only in a miserable and small house with his girlfriend and two kids, and with another kid on the side to support. His situation has improved a little since we hired him, as we give him twice the salary he used to earn. But his house doesn’t even have proper electricity installed, and somehow he still considered a TV to be a main priority. It simply does'nt make sense to me, and the only way I can explain it is that it has to do with the imposed urge to over-consume at Christmas time.
New Years Eve was celebrated quietly on our rooftop with a friend, watching fireworks from a distance. Cap Verdeans are known for their late and long parties, and New Years Eve was certainly no exception. When we woke up on New Years Day to the daily morning wail of our two year old, we could hear music and party chatter from still ongoing festivities in the neighborhood. And after a few hours of pause, it seemed to revive and start off again for a second night of festivities. As a consequence (or is it the other way around), most shops and workplaces are closed also on the second day after New Years Eve.