Gone are the days when birthdays in Cameroon were celebrated with serenity of heart, gentle quietness and cheers.
Indeed, the days when people presented celebrants with birthday cards, assorted gifts, loads of sincere wishes and accolades (well, that too) are long gone.
In Cameroon’s urban centres and especially in university communities, birthdays are celebrated with buckets of water, jugs of palm oil, bowls of garri, corn flour, mud, dust and even spices and other condiments used in cooking.
In what appears to be a maddening trend that has hijacked the Cameroonian society, a trend embraced by the youth, well-wishers bring out the celebrant against his/her wishes and pour water mixed the above-mentioned ingredients.
Although it may usually be fun, harmless and entertaining, many take it to the extreme.
Like has been the case recently in Bambili, a university community in Cameroon’s North-West region, well-wishers ask the celebrant to lie in a pool of dirty water, some are even beaten all in the name of celebrating birthday.
“I was privy to one which was almost inhumane left to me, the boy was first beaten, drenched in water. I heard in the process blood oozed out from his ears as a result of the beating,” Eyong Divine tells Mimi Mefo Info from Bambili.
Recently, a birthday celebrant was soaked with cold water by her neighbours and friends as she cried. They mixed the young girl in a pool of mud and adorned her in a costume reserved for mad people. She then took to the streets, marching like a mad person as onlookers laughed and beat drums of the celebration.
“Most often when there is a birthday, in the morning, water is poured on the celebrant and they are given snake beatings. In other cases, the celebrant is mixed in dust or mud and so on before the party takes place in the evening,” a resident of Bambili told Mimi Mefo Info.
He says a girl who celebrated her birthday recently is yet to recover from the animal-like treatment served her by her friends.
“She was crying instead of celebrating. She fell sick because of the water and the mud that was poured on her early morning on her birthday,” he says. “It’s like a practice that is becoming normal and becoming like a tradition. It’s not clear who introduced it.”
After watching a birthday celebrant resident at Embassy Home go through pains, instead of joy on her birthday, a resident of Bambili tells us that the authorities must ban such a practice.
“On my birthday, my immediate neighbours poured cold water on me. So, I had to take time and explain to them that I am not a fan of that. If not, it would have gone further to mud and the rest,” he says.
Days back in Malingo Street in Buea, a woman poured cold water on her husband in the wee hours of his birthday. In the morning, she poured corn flour on him as a way to celebrate his birthday.
While it’s right to celebrate someone’s birth, it’s also good to celebrate it properly and not in a rather barbaric fashion.