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07.10.2008 Feature Article

Celebrating With Caution

Ghanaians are fun-loving people. It is no exaggeration that visitors to this country depart with fond memories of a people who do not allow the hardships of this world to extinguish in them their spirit to celebrate.

Not even death. That is why funerals are gradually taking the form of festivals and are being euphemistically described as celebrations of life.

So whether it is a religious or traditional festival or the celebration of the life of a departed relation, Ghanaians are quick to rise to the occasion to burn all their energies to fill themselves with food and alcohol.


After all, what is life if you have to allow poverty and other vicissitudes of life to deprive you of fun or allow sorrow and misery emanating from the death of a dear one to reduce you to tatters when life must go on?

But these days, either out of excitement or out of desperation, we descend to the extreme. Those selected to go to the mortuary to collect bodies are sometimes so drenched in alcohol that they easily pick the wrong corpses.


 It has happened several times and relatives only realise, deep into the funeral rites, that they have been mourning the wrong person.

The drivers conveying bodies from the mortuaries usually get carried away by sorrow fuelled by alcohol and drive so recklessly that sometimes more lives are lost, turning a rather sombre observation of death into a bigger nightmarish experience.

The funeral ground itself is something like a picnic, with different live bands or spinning groups competing for attraction.


Depending on the stature of the dead and the financial weight of those in charge of the funeral, the celebrants could be assured of a free flow of torrents of alcoholic beverages.


Then starts careless and loose talks and irresponsible behaviour.

Some mourners never return home in piece because the reflexes of their drivers have been numbed by excess alcohol and, therefore, they could not make a difference between an approaching articulated truck and a wheelbarrow.


Some of the women who take delight in competing with the men in alcohol consumption lose control and do not remember the vehicles they sat in to the funerals and naturally end up sitting by the wrong men. It is a common allegation that some marriages suffer after funerals.

Some wake up after a funeral with missing teeth or swollen jaws because they had over-indulged in the celebrations.


What should have been a solemn occasion to pay last respects to a lost one ends up with the deceased forgotten and the things we can remember are the losses and the pains.

If funerals have assumed the status of carnivals, it is not difficult to picture what happens at festivals.


 It is the same drinking and eating and the vulgar display of recklessness.


 The joy and togetherness these festivals were designed to bring to us are most often lost in the midst of accidents, quarrels, broken limbs and sometimes death.

It is sad that religious rites or festivals have not escaped this menace. Christmas, which is an important event on the Christian calendar marking the birth of Jesus Christ, lacks, in most part, any religious fervour.

Apart from the ritualistic church services which many do not miss, the merry-making associated with Christmas may not make Jesus Christ, wherever he may be sitting, happy in Heaven.


The same can be said of Easter, which commemorates the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Where Christians have failed, we thought Muslims will show the way. But once a Ghanaian, always a Ghanaian.


Eid-ul-Fitr is a sacred festival on the Islamic calendar, observed to mark the end of the month of fasting and prayers.


Yes, it is a joyous occasion, having renewed our faith and strengthening us to count on the bountiful blessings of Allah.

However, we need not dilute this special occasion with any unnecessary antics.


What I saw last Tuesday in some parts of Accra unnerved me — motor riders zig-zagging in the middle of roads.


Some people were hanging perilously on moving vehicles being driven as if the concrete roads have been padded with foam.


Accidents have been recorded in the past and I will not be surprised if this year's celebration was not without its casualties.

The Jama sessions which followed in the afternoon, with loud music and intricate body movements, could not hide from even the casual observer that some people have over-indulged in alcohol consumption. It is true.

By all means we must have fun, no matter the occasion. That is the only way we can ease tension and rejuvenate our bodies from this earthly stress.


 But moderation should be the watchword.


There is no need to wake up with a severe hangover after celebrating.


It will be even worse if we should be struck by one calamity or another just because we could not control ourselves when celebrating.


That is why we should celebrate with caution.

By Kofi Akordor

Daily Graphic
Daily Graphic, © 2008

This author has authored 236 publications on Modern Ghana. Author column: DailyGraphic

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