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A reflective Christmas miscellany, and an unexpected ray of light

BY: Ajoa Yeboah-Afari

I got an early Christmas present on Thursday; and it came in the form of six mundane words: “Thank you for the gift yesterday”.

Yes, ordinary words. Individually they were certainly not exciting, but collectively, forming a sentence, that appreciative statement made my day.

It was a very pleasant surprise, the WhatsApp ‘thank you’ message coming from a near stranger, and remarkable in this era of the neglect of ‘thank yous’ by many people.

The “gift” mentioned was a paltry GHȼ5 note I had given ‘C’, a young man sent to my house the day before to collect plastic waste for recycling. As I normally do when people are sent on errands to me, I give them a little something “for ice-water”. But never have I received this kind of heart-warming appreciation.

It’s known that I have long lamented the gradual disappearance of one of the essential traditions of Ghanaians, the expression of appreciation for a gift, good deed or support. Especially regrettable is the disappearance of the habit of saying ‘thank you’ to the benefactor the morning, or day, after a favour.

Indeed, in the Akan culture, the importance of this practice is demonstrated by the custom of bereaved families going round their community the day after the funeral, to thank funeral attendees. These days, many do it through the media, but the personal touch is considered more valued.

Thus, the message from C was a ray of light in this unusually quiet Christmas week, the 2022 Christmas, which is looking more and more a low-key, reflective celebration, despite the marvellous, must-see, festive decorations at the main roundabouts and streets in Accra.

Incidentally, noticeably, as at Wednesday evening, the absence of Christmas decorations in front of President and Mrs Nana Akufo-Addo’s residence, unlike last year, to me speaks volumes about the mood of the First Couple.

Christmas carols, too, seem to have taken a back seat this year; not many are being heard in neighbourhoods, or even in the air. Still, I did come across another festive staple, a group of masqueraders on one of the main streets.

Anyhow, I have been wondering, do the big shops perhaps know something about the country’s economy and the purchasing power of Ghanaians that the rest of us don’t know?

Here we are, a country in the stranglehold of a cost of living (COL) crisis, the almost universal anthem being heard is ‘there’s no money in the system’; the ever spreading industrial unrests and threats of strike; and yet TV stations and the main newspapers have been full of aggressive adverts, all pushing down our throats goods to buy, promoted as essential for Christmas and New Year enjoyment!

Some of them started their advertisements weeks ago, even in the midst of the general anxiety then, about the ever depreciating cedi against the dollar, causing general jacking up of prices and aggravating the COL fears.

But then, who knows, perhaps the managements which have been placing the adverts are believers in the popular sayings which reflect the Ghanaian’s reputation for resilience.

Two Akan proverbs which come readily to mind are ‘yɛbewu nti yɛnna anaa? (loosely translated as ‘should fear of death stop us from going to bed/sleeping?’); and, ‘yɛso atuduro a, yɛnnom tawa anaa?’ (‘should we stop smoking just because we have head-loads of gunpowder?’).

What I find most interesting is the sort of items being advertised as ‘must-have for Christmas’. Not just groceries or party-fare, but laptops, mobile phones, televisions; kitchen equipment such as fridges and deep freezers; not to mention exercise machines!

I wonder how much better Christmas Day tomorrow will be improved for those who were able to take advantage of the ‘Christmas promo’ to take home a trampoline!

Not to be left out, some enterprising real estate companies have been advertising land sales, one of them promising a “pre-Xmas land promo”! But maybe Christmas is the right time to find money to buy land to start building one’s dream house!

However, unlike the past, conspicuously, no adverts for Christmas cards, or greeting card shops. In any case, how many greeting card stores do we now have in the country – if any?

Christmas, birthday and other cards apparently are now mostly converted into e-cards, including musical ones. They offer much more variety, but somehow the effect is not the same.

I remember how people used to display Christmas cards in their living rooms, usually strung across the room, adding to the festive atmosphere. There was also the pleasure of receiving cards from family and friends far away or long-lost; and from unexpected quarters, or from distant countries with fascinating postage stamps.

Somehow, the e-cards don’t seem to have the same cachet. The traditional card has a special appeal that the sophisticated, modernised e-version doesn’t quite have.

Also, of course with everything now circulated electronically, from one’s phone, tablet or computer, it means the post offices are completely left out. Fewer letters being posted, reduces even more the need for postage stamps, and hence lost revenue to Ghana Post.

Yet, Ghana used to be famous for our colourful postage stamps, coveted by international stamp collectors.

It’s somewhat depressing to think that, unlike those ‘Born Before Computers’ (BBC) there may come a time when the present generation, the ‘Born in the Computer Age’ (BiCA?), will have no idea how to address an envelope, or even what a postage stamp is.

Still, despite the compelling adverts for ‘Christmas bargains’ of all kinds in the big shops, media reports from the markets and street vendors quote most traders as lamenting poor sales, ascribing it to ‘no money in pockets’.

Nevertheless, thank God for the rays of light in the seeming gloom. We may not all have money in pocket this Christmas, but surely there are blessings to count.

So here’s wishing everybody smiles and laughter tomorrow, and into the New Year.
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