Festivities in the Gambia

An 'orphans' Christmas

So Christmas away from home. I miss my family and friends a lot whilst here but at Christmas this seems to be magnified so much that at times I almost had a physical pain in my chest as I was missing my nieces and nephews so much. That said I don’t want anyone to feel sorry for me as we did have a fantastic day….

Christmas has always been a very big deal in my house and so along with Jodie, Marney and few others we decided to have a full-on proper family Christmas with those of us that could not be home for Christmas. Jodie did a brilliant job of decorating Pauls house and creating a 'winter wonderland' so we had a fireplace, stockings (in African material of course), a Christmas tree, Santa and the like. (We also kept the air-con on full blast for a convincing winter chill!)

Paul was very sweet and got me a stocking to open on Christmas morning. I opened 1 gift and was amazed that he had got just the same kind of thing that my Mum used to get for me when I was at home. When I opened the second gift I realised that he must have enlisted help from my Mum…there is no way Paul would have bought me a french manicure polish and some stainless steel measuring cups (I’m weird like that!)

For Christmas lunch there were 14 of us for a sit down 6 course meal (of which we managed 5 courses, the 6th we had on boxing day). I did most of the cooking with help from Stew and others but was quite proud when it all turned out okay. We had roast Turkey and all the trimmings in Pauls back garden over looking the ocean. Followed by presents (Thank you for mine x) and then games before heading off to the High Commission bar for an evening party organised by Paul and Jules. Having had 14 bottle of champagne between about 8 of us (thanks mainly to my parents and Marneys Mum) we didn’t need much encouragement to monopolise the dance floor (and the window sill in my case!)

It was a truly great day. Totally British (except the lovely weather) with very few Gambian influences but to be honest, it’s just what I wanted at Christmas.

New Years Eve - Brazillian style

My sister Rachel was here for New Years Eve. Jayne an Australian friend out here hosted a party at her flat with a Brazillian theme. She made Caiprinas so we were sozzled way before 12 but managed to party tillabout 4 am (unfortunately the Caiprinias were with lemons instead of limes as they look so similar here!)

Jules and Rachel made us dresses to wear...well they were almost dresses but made without the aid of any kind of sewing or cutting equipment. It's a miracle but they did survive the night (including Julies midnight swim in the ocean!) Most people didnt really go to town with the dressing up so at least we made the effort. If there had been a prize then Jacqui Q would have won for her bravery in wearing a Carnival outfit for the whole evening.

Roll on 2009!


A kind of equivalent of Christmas in the Muslim calendar. In the Gambia of course, we get to celebrate both Christmas and Tobaski again demonstrating the religious tolerance here (and also the love of bank holidays!!)
('Jodie' tethered outside my kitchen, awaiting her fate!)

Tobaski is celebrated 2 months and 10 days after the end of Ramadan (not sure why?). It is when Muslims celebrate an event depicted in the Bible when Abraham committed himself to God by being prepared to sacrifice his son Isaac. When God saw his dedication he allowed Abraham to sacrifice a Ram instead of his son. People go to the Mosque at 10am and the return to the home compoud to share a meat feast. For those who can afford it the household buys a Ram, sheep or goat and it is slaughtered the head of the household, helped by other male members of the family. The women prepare the other food for the feast so its a bit like a BBQ back home. Men do the meat and feel proud that they have cooked, the women do everything else.

My Tobaski started about 5 days before the actual festival when 2 goats arrived on the compound. One was tethered outside my kitchen window, the other between Sana and Adamas houses. For the first few days and nights they seemed quite happy but as the day approached they seemed to become aware of their fate and got more and more vocal. To be honest it was a bit distressing but as I’m not a vegetarian I can’t really grumble about the fact that the animals were going to be slaughtered to eat!!

I chickened out and didn’t watch Sana, my neighbour actually kill and gut the goats (Sana had named them Jodie and Marney to amuse me but it made the killing seem even worse!) Once this act had taken place the meat was roughly butchered and then cooked on the compound and shared with all comers. My contribution was sweets and few cakes; to be honest the Gambians I know will eat almost anything so they were happy to tuck in to whatever was provided.

In fact I didn’t stay long as Tobaski fell on the same day that my Mum and Dad arrived to visit me. The call of seeing them and also the hot power shower at Ngala Lodge was too much for me to resist….Maybe next year I’ll make more of the event.

In general though everyone dresses up in their finest clothes (and at work the girls had special new outfits made for the occasion). The children especially look very sweet all dressed up. Many people in Kombos go back to their actual home villages (where they were born or where their family live). This means that although it is only 1 days holiday many people take more than that.

(As an aside. I’ve discovered since being here that lots of people say that they haven’t taken holiday for years…Often what this means is they haven’t booked time off in advance and taken their full holiday leave. Everyone takes what is known as casual leave which is time off which is not booked in advance and is used for any number of events, family commitments and travelling. If people took all the holidays they were entitled to, plus the bank holidays and then some casual leave they would have half the year off!)

Tobaski Photos

'Jodie' outside my window

'Marney' sleeping between Adama's and Sana's

Posing on Tobaski Morning

Sharing rice to go with the cooked meat

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