Christmas Very Popular In Mostly-Muslim Senegal

As in other majority non-Christian countries such as Japan, it's largely seen as a secular holiday. Focus is placed largely on children, with Santa Claus making the rounds as well.

What's the Latest Development?

Christmas is alive and well in Senegal, with and shops offering a variety of items, such as chocolate snowmen and plastic trees, that one wouldn't expect to see in a country that's 95 percent Muslim. Mosques and churches are decked out in lights, and schoolchildren sing carols and learn about Santa Claus, or Père Noel, as he's called in this former French colony. One school even hosts a party where teachers place gifts under a tree and Père Noel appears to pass them out to students.

What's the Big Idea?

At a time when Muslim separatism is on the rise, Senegal is one country where peaceful coexistence continues to be a long-standing and valued tradition. Most of the tiny percentage of Senegalese who are Christian are Catholic and live in Dakar, the capital. Of course there are some Muslims who frown on the celebration, but most view Christmas as a secular holiday that's meant for children and families. Mamadou Sy, who works as a Santa at a seaside amusement park, says children react to him the way they do everywhere: Some are scared, but most want pictures and presents.

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