As this post combines my life in The Gambia with some crafting things, I’m posting on both my blogs, as it seems to be relevant to both!
It does seem strange to be celebrating Christmas in temperatures of 30 degrees and (mainly) sunshine! I suppose my memories of Christmas things are always surrounded by the chill of a British winter, and even though a white Christmas is a rarity, it doesn’t seem quite right to be thinking of carols, snow and robins when it feels more like summer.
Although Gambia is mainly Muslim, Christmas is celebrated here, and Christians will prepare special food, get together with family, and generally have a good time. However, it’s much more low key than in the UK, and there’s no decorating of houses or giving presents – most people have little money to spend on extras like that. There are Christmas carols on the radio from time to time, and I remember last year listening to a children’s nativity on the radio, when youngsters read out relevant Bible passages and carols were sung, which was lovely.
Last year I arrived here relatively late, and it was the first Christmas I had ever spent outside the Uk and away from the family, so I didn’t really think much about doing very much to celebrate, apart from welcoming family and enjoying delicious food. But this year I thought I would do a little more, so over the last few weeks I’ve been tatting snowflakes. For many years I have been fascinated by tatting, so I decided that this year I would teach myself to tat. If you want to know more about my tatting journey, you can catch up with some of my posts e.g. Tatting: My First Attempt, Tatting with Two Shuttles and Some Proper Tatting at Last. So around the middle of November I set to work to tat some snowflakes to decorate our house.
There’s a wealth of patterns, tutorials and advice on the internet, and once I started putting posts on my craft blog (www.stitchesndreams.wordpress.com), lots of people were really helpful and encouraging. I have really enjoyed making snowflakes, and have even got brave enough to try creating my own design, which you can find here – Snowflake with clover motif.
Of course, finding a Christmas tree is pretty difficult here, although I have seen some dubious artificial ones with some slightly hideous baubles in the market in Serrakunda, so I decided I would have to be a bit creative. Having experimented with hanging the snowflakes from a single stick, which didn’t give me the look I wanted, I then found a small branch which had blown off one of our trees during a windy night. With a bit of ‘pruning’, and long search to find a suitable base (I finally commandeered an old drum base, which is heavy and steady), I have set up my own little tree complete with snowflakes!
It’s not the best photo in the world, and as I haven’t stiffened and ironed the snowflakes, they are a bit bendy, so maybe next year I will try to be a bit more organised and get them better prepared, but I have to say I’m quite pleased with the result.
Last year, my friend Sue gave me a stained glass Christmas tree to bring, as she thought (rightly), that it would be hard to find a tree here. I have also put that one up, so now I have two trees.
I also wanted to put up a wreath on the door, but most leaves here are dying off as we haven’t had rain for several weeks. So I was delighted to find a pattern for a tatted wreath, with red beads for holly berries. It’s only about 3 inches across, but I loved stitching it, and with a bit of juggling with thread, I have managed to hang it on our door.
To be honest, I’m not sure people here quite ‘get’ why I’m doing all this, although I have tried to explain about British traditions, and even showed them a photo of my son’s Christmas tree, but I am happy with it.
So now we have done a large amount of shopping for Christmas, and we are waiting for friends and relatives to arrive to celebrate with us. So I will finish by wishing you all a Merry Christmas and Happy New year, and I hope you enjoy the holiday period.