Today is Benin’s last real working day before the New Year. And of course, you should understand that, as Christmas is an entire season in the States, the New Year actually lasts several weeks here. Although it’s a Friday, and technically, Monday and Tuesday are still business days, the party starts today.
Today’s the day everyone goes and buys a couple-three bottles of liquor (whiskey, by preference, but also Campari and Baily’s and all sorts of rums) that they’ll use to entertain their guests over the next several weeks. If there are still holiday decorations to buy, today’s the day. Christmas/ New Year’s presents? Yup, today. Tomatoes and onions and corn flour and rice and oil and anything else you’ll need to cook for the fêtes? You guessed it, everyone’s buying today.
Think of it as our own Beninese “Black Friday.”
The whole country is breathing a sigh of relief. It’s been a hard year. The economy’s taken a hit. Prices are up. Corruption is down. Nobody has any money. But hey! Even those who have to work during this season (like Bertrand and I) are happy. It’s the end of the year. We’ll spend the next three weeks visiting friends, toasting our good fortune, and welcoming those who visit us into our home.
It’s not a time of resolutions, but a time of thankfulness. We have our health. We have a roof over our heads. We have enough to eat. We have friends. We have family.
Bonne fête, alors !