Religion and Philosophy

Senegal, a Muslim Country that Can’t Get Enough Christmas

Voice of America

Senegal, home to the largest mosque in West Africa and with a 95 percent Muslim population, is widely recognized for its strict adherence to Islam. And yet each year at Christmas, streets and city squares are aglow with holiday lights and storefronts filled with tinsel and Christmas trees. So, how do Senegalese people reconcile their devotion to Islam with their love of the Christian holiday?

Street vendors carrying skull caps and prayer beads weave in and out traffic in Dakar’s busy Sandaga Market.

It’s a typical weekday in this Muslim majority country, where taxi drivers often pull over to pray on the sidewalk and mosques can be found just about everywhere even on the beach.

But in December, Senegal’s vendors also peddle shimmering tinsel, metal ornaments, and plastic Christmas trees.

Senegal Is a Muslim Country that Can't Get Enough Christmas

Ndiaga Gueye sells Christmas trees for between $20 to 50, depending on the size. He said he typically sells two per day.

“It’s mostly Muslims who buy the trees, because Senegal is a secular country,” he said. “Everyone is the same. Christians participate in Muslim holidays and Muslims do the same during Christian holidays. But, it’s mostly Muslims who buy the [Christmas] trees.”


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