I haven’t heard John and Yoko’s Happy Xmas even once this year… yet. (I truly hope I haven’t just jinxed myself by writing that down.) In fact, throughout this November and December the fact that the Holiday Season is upon us has, at times, slipped to the back of my mind.
Here, November began with Dia di Tudu Santus (All Saints’ Day). As it falls during the corn-harvesting time of year, this day is commonly referred to as Dia di Kumi Midju (Corn Eating Day). It’s a day for eating corn—boiled or cooked on charcoals—and spending time with family, not entirely unlike Thanksgiving. We woke up to find that a friend had left fresh-picked corn on our doorstep, and we passed the day going house-to-house and eating lunch repeatedly.
Likewise, Adam and I celebrated American Thanksgiving with style: nearly all the Santiago Island Volunteers came to our house for a potluck feast the Sunday before. We had sweet potatoes, stuffing, chicken-that-was-like-turkey, green bean casserole, and more.
Gathering with so many Americans made me remember how Thanksgiving marks the beginning of a whole holiday fever back home, a fact that I had entirely forgotten and that I continued to forget throughout early December. Normally, in America, I love the two solid months of baking, crafting, decorating, entertaining, shopping, etc. that revolves around the winter holidays (or at least reading about them). I’ve had many reality checks via the Internet, podcasts, the NY Times Style section, or Facebook. But these cues have hit me out of context here in Cape Verde.
First, it had to do with missing the East Coast Coast autumn: leaves changing color, a smoky scent in the air, days getting shorter, pumpkins and squash appearing in the market, and my garden winding down. It’s gotten a little bit cooler here, but it’s nothing like the New York weather that makes me want to put on Vince Guaraldi and wrap presents.
Don’t get me wrong: the Christmas spirit is not absent here! This is a Catholic country, after all. Some houses in our conselho (county) have put up Christmas decorations. At work I am signed up for the holiday gift exchange. The loja Xines (general stores owned by Chinese and filled with Chinese goods) in Praia are stocked with toys. And a few days last week, folks lined up at the postu de vendi (produce sales counter) next door to our house to pick up Christmas dinner.
Some of you will remember an email from early October where I mentioned that the clucking of chickens in the henhouse next door wakes me up every morning at 7am, when the woman comes to collect their eggs. (The smell of their poop rings other sensory alarms at all times of day.) Well, turns out there are 400 of them, and their days are numbered.
“This advises all employees of [my workplace] that beginning on the 15th of this month, 400 chickens and 57 ducks will be sold, and that the list of prices is available at reception.”
Needless to say, the fowl population in our neighborhood has dwindled. The turkeys and ducks are history.
There are still quite a few hens left, but they are no longer loud enough to drag me out of slumber. We are now in a time of egg shortage. Doh.
It’s definitely the season, and the anticipation of a festa bedju (literally, old party, but really meaning big party) is building steadily as we get closer to the Big Day. This week Adam and I were in Praia for In-Service Training, where we had a great dinner and Yankee Gift Swap with our volunteer cohort. On Christmas Eve Adam and I will have breakfast for dinner with a group of volunteers, and we’ll spend Christmas Day with our host family. Eating chicken.