Christmas in the tropics

How does one get into the spirit of the season when it means expensive imported mince pies and neighbours doing building projects?

Coming from the Northern Hemisphere one knows deep down when days become shorter, the weather gets colder and the shopping more erratic that Christmas is on its way.

Consciously or not, willingly or otherwise, one just seems to join in the overall talks about upcoming activities for the year end and the excitement and concerns involved.

It means longer evenings indoors, candles and hot drinks, discussions about Christmas trees — real or artificial — who to invite and where to go.

Being in the tropics is a very different story, in all respects.

The time of sunrise has been increasing noticeably since September and the usual humid heat of Dar is undeniable as December sets in. Typically it is ’30 degrees, feels like 36.’

The light seems brighter, there’s no day without sunglasses. Noise and sounds of clubs and live music during weekends increase as public holidays come up and money can be made.

Supermarkets and restaurants set their A/C’s higher, coloured lights flash around and staff wear red and white Santa hats and reindeer horns.

Canned music can be heard about dreams of snow, a red nose reindeer and jingle bells.

All this does not inspire me to buy expensive imported mince pies, Christmas puddings or chocolate Santas.

It does not bring me in the mood to decorate the house with Christmas tree branches, candles, an advent calendar or table decorations.

Neighbours often take the holidays to complete some extra building activities, so even the house is not a place of enjoying feelings of peace and quiet or togetherness.

What does get me in the tropical holiday spirit?

There are always the white sandy beaches, late cooling winds and long lovely evenings with starry nights to be thankful for.

The abundance of the season, complete with ripe mangoes, avocado and nanasi, those are what make up my Christmas in the tropics.

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About the Author

Josie van den Hoek
Josie first visited Dar es Salaam in 2000 and is still here. She writes about encounters on her daily walks and Tanzanian life.