When you live in a culture that is different from your own, you adopt some things and adapt other things. (But let’s be honest, some things you don’t even try!)
Celebrating Easter this year was no exception. Although Senegal is predominantly Muslim (around 95%), Christians throughout the country celebrate the resurrection of Christ. According to a friend up in northern Senegal, their cable tv station even got into the spirit by airing a holiday movie. It was ‘Miracle on 34th Street’. Hmm… wrong holiday. But it’s the thought that counts, right?
A huge part of Senegalese holidays is sharing food with your friends, neighbors and the poor. (I love that, don’t you?) So on Muslim holidays, special meals of ram and rice are passed around from neighbor to neighbor.
And on Christian holidays, ngalakh, a special dessert called made from peanut butter, the fruit of the baobab tree and millet, is shared. If you ask most Senegalese to say the first word they associate with Easter (Pâques), odds are good that they will say ‘ngalakh’.
In case you haven’t noticed, I’m a toubab. I don’t have the genes for carrying stuff on my head, dancing mbalax or making ngalakh. So I didn’t even try. But I did adapt the tradition by making loaves of banana bread to take to our neighbors.
Another tradition I adapted was my Easter outfit. My husband’s Senegalese mom (did you follow that?) gave me this dress as a wedding gift, but I’d never worn it. Somehow pink embroidery just seemed right on Easter. Plus, we were going to a Senegalese friend’s house for lunch.
It’s a long tunic top over a skirt, and then the musoor headwrap. I like it because it’s not too frilly (pink and embroidery is girly enough for me!), fairly cool and easy to walk in.
I’m on the fence when it comes to head scarves on toubabs. I want to love them – and I do on others. I think I’ve figured out that, for me, the key is not to cover all my hair. (Anyone out there know if this is a culturally acceptable adaptation?)
For more on Easter fashions in Senegal, head over to see the latest post on The Gazelle Skirt!