Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Hanukkah and Christmas

How did we celebrate Hanukkah in Senegal? - all I can say is "the best way we know how!"  Our first night was at home and the second night - let me just say - we made it "on the list" this time  (see blog post  Where Mosques Outnumber Synagogues for a historical perspective ) thanks to one of my DWG members Joelle.  Read on...
Let me start with Hanukkah at Home. What do you do when you don't have a menorah? You make one!  A simple design of collected seashells from the beach glued on a piece of wood. And in a country where you realize finding Hanukkah candles would be futile - you go for the next best thing - birthday candles.  Creativity and resourcefulness is our motto.

 The good thing about living here - is there is **no shortage** of potatoes so while we could have had mounds and mounds and mounds of latkes - the Latke King  (aka Manning) - 

followed a recipe on-line that called for only 1/2 kilo of potatoes - so he ended up only  3 large potatoes resulting in 8 latkes - 2 each -  WAAAAAAAA! 

Our meal consisted of some rice, applesauce,  veggies (not shown) and the yassa poulet (made by Esperance our bonne) - a national dish which is a mix of grilled chicken along with lemony, spicy, mustard and sauteed onions.The meal in total was oh so good! The latkes were of the finest quality - just the right amount of grease and crunch -  despite the lack of production. A request has been submitted to ask "the King" to make some more and triple the recipe post Hanukkah!!.


The 2nd night of Hannukah was spent at the residence of Ms. Irit Amitai, Deputy Chief of Mission, and Mr. Perry Amitai , Commercial Attach√©  both of the Israeli Embassy.  This lovely couple and their young son graciously opened their home up to help celebrate a holiday for "the Jewish community"  currently residing in Dakar. There was maybe 30-40 folks including kids.  Joelle - a vivacious and energetic member of DWG (she is now the president of the club) - was kind enough to pass my name along to the Amitai's at the Israeli Embassy.  Joelle happens to have a vast network she is established with here - and the Israeli Embassy is one of them.

    So thanks to her we made it - "on the list" - and enjoyed a very memorable evening.

Israeli Ambassador (with red watch on)
Irit Amitai

Parker and Addison held their own for a bit - drinking Coke and eating the wonderful finger food that was served.  Unfortunately, in terms of their age,  they were kind of stuck in the middle  between the adults and the really young kids - so of course it was "Mr Blackberry" who became their friend for a bit.  Eventually but by the end of the evening they had warmed up to the younger kids in the crowd (not pictured).

If there seemed to be a few things missing this year  (beyond celebrating the holidays with long time friends back in the bay area) - I would have to say it was -  the dreidel, chocolate gelt and even my favorite Hanukkah tunes (even at the party). Obviously not the end of the world kind of things, but just observations and recognition of what is different because it could not be found.  

And speaking of observations, being the Christmas holiday season here in a country that is 95% Muslim - the downtown where we live had it's share of "Joyeux Noel" decorations, lights, streamers, holiday plastic trees and quite a few fireworks blasting, shooting or spinning on the streets. (It's legal here).  As far as preparing for Christmas - no crowds to fight - for all you have to do is  just stand on the corner and anything Christmas you need or want (including the firecrackers) for decoration will come to you!
You could see that people are in a "holiday spirit" - it's a different kind of thing here and it's really hard to put my finger on it. It's certainly a day of celebration for those who celebrate. And since we did not spend any time with a Catholic Senegalese person we don't know what their day is like for Christmas. With that being said I think I was mindful of a few things noticeable  --> coming from the US with all it's commercialization and holiday songs that start just after Thanksgiving --> while watching tv, listening to the radio or driving in a cab here not one tune of Jingle Bells, Silent Night, White Christmas, Rudolph The Red Nose Reindeer, Here Comes Santa Claus, Feliz Navidad, Please Come Home for Christmas, Jingle Bell Rock, or Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas to name a few could be heard. Not even in any of the local languages that we could discern with a melody we might recognize!  Okay,  so perhaps maybe I kind of miss those tunes - after all these years I do now know them!  But - I think it was the commercialization I recognized as extremely tame - and in a way I actually did not mind that at all.  The other thing that stuck out for us was the cost of toys here - the Casino Supermarche  as just one example was still lined with toys - and perhaps not surprising - a toy for $20 new and maybe even the same toy for $10 used in *great/good condition* in the US (I'm a reuse kind of gal) - could start at 30,000 CFA which is $60 here. And we saw other things past 60,000 CFA (and we are not talking electronics here but like legos!) but of course there's always Sandaga Market!!.  On a side note too - credit does not exist here that we can tell except maybe for fine restaurants and hotels.  I'm not sure who is buying those toys or who can afford them when I've mentioned before that the yearly average wage is $1,000 USD.  I think it comes down to not having the funds or means to purchase but a reality and recognition of less and a much more simplified way of living....




  1. Very informative! Good thing you are adaptable.

    1. Dwight - if there is one thing we've learned about life - adaptability must be a middle name for all of us! Thanks for always comment.

  2. We could use a little (lot) less commercialism of Christmas here. thanks for the update on both holidays. I always think of you on the first day of Hannukah, Hil!

    1. Just using the reply feature on the blog now. We loose sight of many holiday's that would be celebrated in the US. But it's not all bad. In some way the clutter of it all is removed. Thanks for always checking in.!