Christmas in Ghana seems to have come and gone. Lights adorned the A&C Shopping Center and Accra Mall. Some stores offered sales; the vast majority, however, did not offer discounts.
Traffic prior to Christmas Day was especially bad as people seemed to come to town to make last minute purchases. The Daily Graphic reported that several market women (traders) in Accra witnessed increased foot traffic but that did not translate into proportionate sales. Several shop owners reported that sales were 40-60 percent lower than last year. Those who did buy purchased children’s clothes and live animals, e.g. goats, pigs, sheep, for feasts. One person I met said that when he was a boy, Christmas was when he got new clothes for the year. Talking to average Ghanaians, I did not hear that many people received any gifts.
According to my “Ghanaian auntie”, she said that typically Ghana shuts down between December 24 and 26 as people return to their villages to celebrate the festivities. Economic worries this year muted the holiday’s usual festive tone. She added that many traders who sell goods at the local markets did not take any days off between December 24 and 26. They needed to work to earn money to provide necessities to their families.
I live across the street from a night club. Every night last week — including Christmas Eve and Christmas Day — I could hear the throbbing beats. Jerry’s, a popular local spot in East Legon, was also open every night last week. Even in a country that seems very religious and outwardly moralistic, I was surprised that no day is too holy to go to the club. Another possibility is that business was so bad this year that the club needs to be open to make money.
Santa Claus did not feature brightly in Ghana. Most Ghanaians live in houses without chimneys so I can understand how difficult Santa would translate here. Game, a department store owned by Wal-Mart, offered plastic Christmas trees; only a minority of people seemed interested in them.
Many of the evangelical churches were closed for Christmas. The lights at Action Cathedral on Spintex were all out between December 24 and 26. The other evangelical churches, e.g. ICGC, Perez Chapel, Agape House, all did not advertise any Christmas services. I expect — and hope –the Catholic churches to have held mass on Christmas Day.
Perhaps they were all busy getting ready for their New Year’s Eve “Crossover” preparations. Most Ghanaians will head to their churches on New Year’s Eve for all-night sessions to pray for good fortune and blessings in the new year. As The Daily Graphic reports, most of the evangelical pastors have plastered Accra with signs promoting their New Year’s Eve nights of prayer.
Despite a headline GDP growth rate of around 6 percent, many people are not realizing the African promise that the media is promoting. Christmas this year in Ghana is another symptom of that divergence.