Christmas Cancelled: Sierra Leone Bans Holiday Celebrations

Christmas, and other holidays celebrations, including New Year’s, are cancelled in Sierra Leone this year to help prevent the spread of Ebola.

“Christmas is cancelled” is not something kids, or adults, like to hear during this time of the year. The holidays are normally about frivolity, celebrations, traditions, and faith. However, the Ebola crisis is raging in Sierra Leone, causing a two-week lockdown in the Kono region of the West African country.

With the threat of spreading the virus so high, authorities wished to minimize the chance of exposure by banning all public holiday celebrations. Having Christmas cancelled prevents large groups of people from gathering together and infecting one another.

Officials want residents to stay inside this Christmas, according BBC News.

The Telegraph reports that Palo Conteh states that festivities are cancelled, and the ban will be enforced.

“There will be no Christmas and New Year celebrations this year. We will ensure that everybody remains at home to reflect on Ebola. Military personnel will be on the streets at Christmas and the New Year to stop any street celebrations.”

Conteh is a former solder and the country’s Defense minister. Conteh also serves as the head of Sierra Leone’s Ebola response team.

Sierra Leone is a mostly Muslim country, however, more than a quarter of the country’s six million residents are Christians. Christmas is widely celebrated, as well as other festivities, such as masquerades. All of which are now cancelled.

Sadly, this year public service announcement replace advertisements as Ebola cripples the country.

According to International Business Times, Agnes Bangail, who works for the United Nations Population Fund, states that “every facet of [her] society has been affected by the Ebola epidemic.” For her, having Christmas cancelled is not the worst thing to happen.

“It’s hard to have a Merry Christmas when you’ve lost loved ones, and are preoccupied with staying alive; when there’s nowhere you can go to drink and be merry, and the very act of doing so seems out of place.”

She adds that, “Having a Merry Christmas is not really the priority right now; keeping our people alive to see many more Christmases is. Ebola stole this Christmas; all we can do now is make sure that this never happens again.”

The president of Sierra Leone, Ernest Bai Koroma, told tribal leaders to have any rituals that may add to the spread of the virus cancelled as well.

In the last three weeks, 1,319 news cases of Ebola have emerged in Sierra Leone.

Palo Conteh did not state when the Christmas ban will begin, or if there will be any exceptions.

Currently there is no general ban on working or walking outside.

In the time of the year when hope is suppose to prevail, it is hard to hear that even one place is having its Christmas cancelled.

[Image via The Independent]