Christmas in Africa – How its Observed, Customs & Traditions
Can You Believe Christmas Is Almost Here Again?
This time of the year, people around the world are preparing for the holiday, and depending where you live, you may be preparing for a very different celebration than we are used to here in Canada. Christmas, Santa Claus, and holiday celebrations take on many different forms. This is no different in Africa.
How is Christmas Observed in Africa?
Christmas is celebrated across Africa by the large Christian community (more than 350 million people) that is dispersed throughout the continent. How it is celebrated depends on the country, but there are many similarities to the Christmas we are accustomed to.
Gifts are exchanged, family dinners occur (goat rather than turkey), and it is celebrated on December 25th in most regions, while some celebrate on January 7th. While decorations are also common, you will be hard pressed to find any snow!
How to Say Merry Christmas in Africa
Here is how to say Merry Christmas in a number of regions in Africa:
- In Akan (Ghana) Afishapa
- In Zimbabwe Merry Kisimusi
- In Afrikaans (South Africa) Geseënde Kersfees
- In Zulu (South Africa) Sinifisela Ukhisimusi Omuhle
- In Swazi (Swaziland) Sinifisela Khisimusi Lomuhle
- In Sotho (Lesthoto) Matswalo a Morena a Mabotse
- In Swahili (Tanzania, Kenya) Kuwa na Krismasi njema
- In Amharic (Ethiopia) Melkam Yelidet Beaal
- In Egyptian (Egypt) Colo sana wintom tiebeen
- In Yoruba (Nigeria) E ku odun, e hu iye' dun!
Annual Christmas Pageant in Congo
In Congo, people hold an annual Christmas pageant. Christmas Day begins with carolers walking through the village before Christmas worship that celebrates the birth of Jesus. Everyone who attends services offers up a gift. After the service, people enjoy Christmas dinner, which is held indoors or outdoors with friends and family.
Christmas in South Africa Is a Summer Holiday
Christmas falls in the summer season in South Africa, and most families spend the day at the beach and enjoying a barbecue with their family.
Even without the winter weather, carolers hit the streets on Christmas Eve, services are held Christmas morning, and homes are decorated with pine branches with Christmas fir in the corner, complete with gifts for the kids.
Dinner is often held outside during the day with a more traditional meal, including turkey, mince pies and even plum pudding.
Ghana Celebrates the Cocoa Harvest During Christmas
Christmas falls in line with the cocoa harvest in the region, and homes and churches are decorated to coincide with the first week of Advent. People return home from the farms and fields once harvest is complete to enjoy the fruits of their labor.
In Liberia – Homes Have Oil Palm for a Christmas Tree
Liberian families use oil palm tree for a Christmas tree, however, they are decorated with bells. Caroler’s awake residents on Christmas morning and practical presents are exchanged, such as cotton, soap, and sweets. Dinner is commonly served outdoors with beef, rice, and biscuits. The day is capped off with fireworks at night.
Ganna – Ethiopian Christmas
Known as Ganna, Ethiopian Christmas is celebrated on January 7th. The celebration occurs in ancient churches, with men sitting separately from women. People receive candles as they enter the church, and worshipers walk around the church three times, a ceremony that often lasts about three hours.
Injera, sourdough pancake bread, is a staple, as is okra soup, rice, beef and biscuits for Christmas dinner.
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