Today a friend wrote in an email, “…I'm sure that it must feel pretty different for you in this season of the year.” Jennifer has compiled her own list of the signs of Christmas in Niger…
Last Thursday was the American Thanksgiving and I know that for most Americans, the following Friday (“black Friday”—I’m not sure why it is called that) is the start of the Christmas season. I was explaining this to a friend who owns the local “alimentaire” (our general store or convenience store) because she was playing Christmas music in her store that day. She told me that Christmas was just one of her favourite holidays of the year because she is a Christian and I said that it was mine too. So I started thinking about what are the pointers to Christmas here in Niger (because they are soo different from Canada. My friend at the “alimentaire” playing Christmas music in her store is the exception not the rule here.)
Christmas in Niger means the beginnings of “cold season”. So named because the temperatures drop significantly at night (mostly to the 70’s F/ low 20’s C). Instead of snowstorms we get “harmattan winds” which are basically a wind that blow in large amounts of dust from the desert that insulate the ground from the sun allowing the temperatures to drop. This kind of “dust storm” looks very much like a thick fog only it’s a lot harder on the breathing. The air is nice and cool in the morning and makes you want to stay under the covers (as long as the covers haven’t had too much dust accumulate on them or in them). The locals pull out their heavy coats and toques which reminds me that probably somewhere back home it is snowing!
For us Christmas starts with the first Christmas cards that arrive. So thanks to Tilsonburg and Caistor Centre our Christmas season started last week! I guess it ends when the last card or present arrives (probably around mid April—if they come after July we will just figure that it is early for next year). In that way, Christmas is really fun here because we never really know when it will start or end.
This year Tabaski the Islamic sheep festival happens around the same time as Christmas (Dec. 20-21) so our neighbours will be celebrating with us (or we will be celebrating with them), although it isn’t quite the same thing.
Thanks to all of you that have been remembering us in prayer and that have been sending words of encouragement. Special thanks to those that remembered our anniversary this year too (this is our 13th not our 12th though).