Several years ago on this page, we felt the need to draw attention to a situation that is all too often the source of controversy and bad feelings among fellow Ghanaians in the Chicago area. It is the practice of celebrating every social event in the community on the weekend and how it creates problems for both the event organizers and the people who attend these events. Unfortunately, our effort doesn’t appear to have borne any fruit so far. Nothing has changed since we highlighted the issue. The funerals, the outdoorings, the birthday parties, the weddings, and all the other events are still taking place on Saturdays and Sundays, even though there are many people who, like us, wish things were done differently to take into account the realities of life in our community today. Scheduling all our social activities for the weekends in spite of the problems it poses is not a very good idea and needs to be changed.
There was a time when it made sense to celebrate all our social events during the weekends alone. This was simply because there weren’t too many of us here then to compete for time and space. It was a somewhat sleepy, almost provincial atmosphere and not a whole lot was happening. Funerals were few and far between, thanks to the small size of our community and, even more important, our relatively youthful and healthy population; outdoorings were infrequent; flashy, high-society weddings were not in vogue; and people publicly celebrating their 50th and 60th birthdays were rarities. Times have changed quite considerably, and all these once-in-a blue-moon activities in the past have now become commonplace in our community.
Multiple events regularly take place on the same weekend or on the same weekend day. What all this comes down to is that, in a closely-knit community like ours, many people find themselves forced to make agonizing decisions about which events to attend and which ones to skip since it may not be possible for them to go to each and every one of these events on a single day. The problem is that, by making such a choice, they run the risk of hurting or alienating even their own friends and acquaintances – a situation people should never get into merely because our community failed to move abreast with the times.
We could ease the pressure on the weekends and certainly on ourselves by scheduling some events for Fridays. Funeral celebrations, because they usually take place in the night, would be perfect for Fridays. Since funerals, unfortunately, constitute the bulk of our social activities nowadays, such a change would free Saturdays for other events. Time slots and venues, which otherwise might be taken up by funerals, would become available for outdoorings, weddings, and birthdays. The change would make a huge difference in the amount of time people spend just waiting to host their parties or say farewell to their departed loved ones.
Some people do have legitimate concerns about attendance if funerals were celebrated on Fridays. Attendance would hardly suffer. If anything, it might gain from the change because there would be few other Ghanaian or African social activities going on in town to compete for guests. There would be no weddings or outdoorings or birthdays to draw people away. As for those who have to work on Fridays, they can go and pay their final respects after their shifts are over, just as they have always done on Saturdays. There would be negligible inconvenience to anyone, certainly no more than there was on Saturdays.
The Friday option would be a sensible and realistic response to perhaps the greatest challenge of our fast growing community. It wouldn’t be any different from the measures adopted by the folks back home to cope with Ghana’s population explosion and the corresponding rise in the number of people dying from various causes. Traditionally, Saturday was the day set aside for funerals, especially in the Akan areas of the country. But in recent years as the mortality rate began to climb, our elders decided to loosen the Saturday-only tradition and allow funeral celebrations on other days as well. This enabled funerals to be disposed of faster, reducing both the emotional and financial toll on bereaved families that result from waiting too long to say farewell to their deceased relatives.
As conservative as their societies are, our elders in Africa have no problem adapting to changing conditions if they have to. It would serve those of us in the Diaspora well if we could borrow a page or two from their book. Otherwise we should not complain when we have to wait in a long queue, figuratively speaking, for the chance to celebrate an important occasion; nor should we get upset if a friend or a neighbor couldn’t make it to our party or event because there was a whole bunch of other activities going on across the city at the same time.
**Congratulations to the organizers of Juby’s Funeral. Thanks for paying heed.*