From kids to opinion leaders to statesmen and just about the whole of mankind, the yuletide provides an avenue for individuals, families, groups and business enterprises to let the guard down, enjoy a spot of fun from around December 20 to January 10 and make some money – a lot of it where possible. In fact, some use the period to “show off” with lavish parties, all in the spirit of the season.
After toiling all year round, the season offers the opportunity for all the dispense goodwill to friend and foe alike. During this period, the seamstress, shoe maker, driver, electrical repairer, sales attendant, call centre operator, publisher, event organizers, company director – service providers in general – all get busy, largely due to the huge interplay of demand and supply.
Last year, the Christmas season in Ghana had competition. It was also an election season. Election 2008 was in full swing and the atmosphere was poisoned with NPP/NDC words of war. There was an air of uncertainty and trepidation because many people felt the election would end in violence. It nearly did…it dragged on from December 7 to the end of the month when the final results were tallied after an unprecedented three rounds of voting in the presidential election. Christmas was thoroughly compromised and was a no-show.
The economic impact of Christmas is a factor that has grown steadily over the years in many countries, including Ghana. It is typically the most important annual economic stimulus for many nations. It is a period where heightened economic activity supersedes almost every other craze with traders engaging in last minute marketing stunts to outwit each other and attract customers.
In the advanced economies of Europe and the US, the Christmas and New Year sales figures are used as yardsticks to measure the preceding year. That is why the season is hyped up by local and national governments to attract spending. In the UK switching on the Christmas lights on Oxford Street/Regent Street is a major event. Other cities and towns also organize their own switching events – all to get people into the “mood”.
Ghana’s case is not too different from other sovereign states except to say some seasons gone by, since December 1992, have often not been celebrated with the pomp, pageantry and razzmatazz associated with Christmas due to not just dwindling economic fortunes and the fall in standards of living of the populace but the election cycles that come four years every December.
Just a little over three weeks to Christmas 2009, The Mail newspaper has been up and about and the mood is at best somber and at worst despondent. The usual euphoria and ambience that characterizes the season is so far absent.
While in 2007, the situation was relatively better, 2008 presented Ghanaians with a more engaging Christmas they never envisaged – one that saw a general election being decided after some grueling three rounds of voting to elect the leader of the country. The exercise took off the shine of the Christmas as there was not much more to celebrate Christmas-wise but there were celebration of sorts for the political victors.
In a year that has seen a transition from one government to the other and so much being expected from the new administration, the electorate is justifiably demanding a lot from the government on how best the government can ‘help’ them enjoy their Christmas this year.
It’s barely two weeks since the Finance Minister, Dr. Kwabena Duffuor presented the 2010 budget to parliament in a tone that sought to suggest a never-to-forget yuletide. He was upbeat and excited about a Christmas that has all the ingredients to evoke lasting if not fond memories.
In his statement, he conveyed to the over 20million Ghanaians who had gathered behind their television and radio sets, how well the president wished every Ghanaian a memorable season. It might have been an easy exercise relaying the message from his boss but one fact which is always lost on politicians is that, their thoughts, actions and inactions are streams apart from that of the citizen who ceded his/her power to them.
In one of those snap interviews conducted by The Mail on the streets of Accra and beyond, a picture, depicting a bleak and gloomy yuletide has been painted by buyers and sellers alike who know the Christmas season far too well.
Last year, because of the election, a lot of people didn’t really prepare for the celebrations but this year’s is just like last year. Since their expectations haven’t been met after the elections, coupled with the economic hardship which has become unbearable, the preparations for the celebrations have been quiet, dull and dead. In fact “Christmas is dead”.
The headline for the story is taken from these words. They were the words of an office manager in one of the media houses in the capital when the Mail caught up with him to find out how he is preparing for the festive season. His effusions were re-echoed by a good number of traders and consumers in Accra. At the Accra Mall, a sales attendant told the Mail simply that “people are not buying”.
He said they feared for their jobs if the trend did not improve.
Christmas is celebrated by Christians all over the world as annual holiday to commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ. In Ghana, the period is associated with painting of houses, sewing of new clothes, settling of family disputes and an avenue for wholesalers and retailers to make profit as the economic activity around this time, reaches its fever pitch and causes so much stress and anxiety amongst the populace.
But this year, so far, even though the Minister of Finance assured Ghanaians that the President wants them to have enjoyable Christmas, some still insist that “Bronya A Wu” – Christmas Is Dead. A clergy-man however told the Mail that they are all getting it wrong.
Christmas is about Christ and salvation, not about spending money.
Credit: The Mail