DAVID GREENE, HOST:
In Liberia, the festive season this year falls under the shadow of Ebola. Fun-loving Liberians usually go all out for Christmas and New Year's, but now many people are reflecting on a traumatic year grappling with the virus that echoes the death and devastation of Liberia's civil war. Still, as NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton has been finding out, a lot of Liberians are determined to enjoy the holidays.
OFEIBEA QUIST-ARCTON, BYLINE: Christmas carols are playing on the radio, and the atmosphere is kind of Christmas-y, Liberian style. And there's lots of painting going on.
SIATTA SCOTT JOHNSON: At a certain time of the year, we want our homes to look good because we have two major festive seasons in Liberia - that's independence in July and Christmas. So we make our homes look good. It's like a competition in Liberia when it comes to the festive season.
QUIST-ARCTON: Commentator Siatta Scott Johnson says there's a government order to paint all office buildings, shops and private houses by mid-December, otherwise you face a fine. She says Ebola has not changed that practice.
JOHNSON: So if you don't paint your house and your home to make it look good, people - again, people kind of, you know, think that you are not, I would say, a normal Liberian. So I think that was one culture that was not touched by Ebola.
QUIST-ARCTON: The last couple of months have seen the number of new Ebola cases declining and stabilizing in Liberia after the terrifying highs of the summer. Ebola specialists warn that creeping complacency is the new enemy, and that Liberians must remain vigilant. Deputy public affairs minister, Isaac Jackson.
ISAAC JACKSON: Protect yourself. Don't give anybody Ebola for Christmas. We want to make sure, you know, you keep it safe.
(SOUNDBITE OF CAR HORN)
QUIST-ARCTON: Manasseh Peters strides up the narrow main street in the tough, congested West Point slum district of the Liberian capital, where there were riots over Ebola in August. Just a few months ago, right here, there were long lines with West Point residents, recently released from Ebola quarantine, waiting for food handouts - not anymore. Dodging noisy, three-wheeler rickshaw taxis, the 19-year-old street trader is selling brightly colored lengths of tinsel.
How are you going to spend Christmas and New Year? How's it looking this year with Ebola?
MANASSEH PETERS: By god's grace, it will be fine.
QUIST-ARCTON: By god's grace Christmas will be fine? Even with Ebola?
PETERS: Yes. I think it's going to be fine.
QUIST-ARCTON: You think it's going to be fine.
PETERS: By god's grace, yes.
QUIST-ARCTON: And many Liberians are planning to celebrate Christmas and New Year, Ebola or no Ebola. Journalist Siatta Scott Johnson says thank goodness the rains are over in time for the holidays. But there's one little anomaly.
JOHNSON: Yeah, I think that's it. That's the difference. We'll have Christmas the same way, it's just that we don't have the Christmas snow. So sometimes when they play (singing) let it snow, let it snow,
I say, no, you play let it shine, let it shine, let it shine. Because it doesn't snow at Christmas.
QUIST-ARCTON: So, instead of (singing) let it snow, let it snow, let it snow, it should be...
JOHNSON: (Singing) Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.
Because the sun should be shining.
QUIST-ARCTON: Ofeibea Quist-Arcton, NPR News.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LET IT SNOW")
UNIDENTIFIED SINGER: (Singing) Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow. When we finally kiss goodnight, how I'll hate going out in the storm. But if you really hold me right, all the way home I'll be warm. The fire is slowly dying, and, my dear, we're still goodbye-ing. As long as you love me so, let it snow, let it snow, let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.
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