Living in Benin has proved exceptionally different from Niger in many ways. I live in the central part of the country, which, religiously speaking is very mixed with Christians, Muslims, and Voudun believers. This past Easter I had the unique opportunity to see Jesus. That’s right, you heard me. Jesus came to Magoumi. Here’s the back story:
About two weeks ago, I asked a student and friend, Yvette, what people do for Easter. All my attempts to explain eggs placed by rabbits, filled with chocolate and candy were met with large levels of confusion. She told me that people went out into the bush to Galilé where the people find a figure covered in white cloth. Hands gloved, face veiled, no inch of skin is visible. Easter Sunday, I found myself attending church (I’ve really mastered this booty shaking conga line dance that people do up to the alter to give money) and eating massive amounts of yam pilé, rice, and these salty white cake things called abllo. But alas, no sighting of the Lord. However, I was unaware that Easter Monday is a potentially bigger holiday than Easter Sunday. Around 5 o’clock in the evening a parade of children waving leaf fronds in the air, teenagers dressed in their finest clothes, motorcycles, and a white robed figure making their way to the Methodist Church wound their way through the village square. And there he was!!! Waving his hands like Obama, greeting the happy citizens of Magoumi. After about 10 minutes, Jesus drove away on the back of the zemijan. I guess it could be comparable to Santa Claus in the United States.
And then the party started! Giant speakers blaring music, the youth dancing, and a buvette serving alcoholic beverages opened up for the evening. Quite the party! All in all, an interesting twist on the Easter holiday celebration. It does make one reflect on how world wide religions are colored and influenced by the history and preferences of the populations practicing them. It’s another aspect of the incredible diversity of the world. That’s one thing I love about experiencing different cultures. Familiar holidays feel strange and exciting and one becomes aware of how there are many different ways to live a life.