Christmas – a time for family, a time for giving thanks, a time to eat too much food and a time that always brings a smile to my face.
In my 20 years, I have experienced Christmas in the heat of the Australian summer, in the snowy cold of the Danish winter, and now, in 2011, I will celebrate Christmas the Ghanaian style.
Ordinarily, my Christmas calendar runs as follow. I race around frantically trying to buy all the gifts for the people on my Christmas list. I attempt to set up my Christmas tree beautifully, but inevitably always fail.
And, annually I visit the many houses in my city that choose to drape their gardens in lights and assortments. Then, Christmas Day is spent with the family – eating, laughing, reminiscing.
Somehow, I think this year is going to be a little different.
In contrast to my city back home, where every house, light post and shop becomes inundated by ornaments and lights, Accra adapts a much more modest approach.
Though you can tell Christmas is coming, especially in the hotels and along the tourist-heavy Oxford Street, the abundance [an at times overhaul] of Christmas trimmings visible in Australia is not so common here. But I don’t really mind – as long as the spirit is there right?
The heat is another difference – well, sort of. For me, the weather is very similar to what I experience back home. Currently, Australia is in the peak of summer and typically, I spend Christmas basking in 30 degree heat.
However, for my fellow European and American volunteers, this is a unique aspect of the festive season which may create a little home-sickness come Christmas Eve.
But hey, I am sure if they are given some good food, good company and a good location there won’t be any complaining. I think they know there will be no shortage of snow lining the streets for their return in January anyhow!
Finally, the food – oh how I am going to miss my Australian Christmas food. Don’t get me wrong I love Ghanaian cuisine, truly. Give me a plate of jollof rice any day. But, there is something mouth-wateringly delicious about what gets served in front of me on Christmas day.
Turkey, chicken wings, prawns, mango salad, I am aware that these delicacies are perhaps not as appealing to the ordinary Ghanaian as they are to myself, but I can assure you, these foods would never disappoint.
However, despite all of this, it is important to reflect upon our similarities, on the parallel meanings of Christmas –wherever it is celebrated. Regardless of religion, denomination, race, ethnicity, gender, age or nationality, if you celebrate Christmas you are celebrating a time of joy.
It is a time to bask in the presence of those you love. It is a time to feel thankful for all that has gone right over the past year. It is a time to laugh, smile, dance and sing. It is a time to do whatever it is that makes you happy.
This Christmas I may not be spending it in true Aussie style but I highly doubt Ghana will let me down. I am grateful, as I am with so many aspects of this trip, to celebrate Christmas in a style far different from my own country. That I am given yet another opportunity to see, experience and learn from a culture that continues to fascinate me.
And so, with that, I would like to wish a Merry Christmas to all Ghanaians. I hope you have both safe and carefree holidays and enter the newly anticipated year of 2012 with a smile on your face.
(Jemma is an Australian intern with the Ghanaian Times)