Christmas is about the biggest celebration that everyone looks forward to across the globe whenever December knocks. It’s December again and we just can’t wait to welcome Santa to our neighbourhoods. Have you considered celebrating Christmas outside your immediate environment? If you haven’t, this year could be your best bet yet. Unlike in some parts of the world, Christmas in Africa is not that solemn, boring time; rather, Africans come out in joyous celebration of the yuletide; and it’s always fun. Want to have a tip of how it’s done? Here is a fast flash of shades and colours of Christmas in Africa, but you’ll do better to have a personal experience.
For the Angolans, Christmas is the biggest party in the year and it lasts from December 24th till the New Year. This is when people meet friends and relatives and celebrate in grand style. A key feature of the season is the eating of “bolo-rei” (translated “king-cake”), a sweet Portuguese cake. “Bolo-rei” is an allusion to the three wise men; it is stuffed with a fava bean and a present. The person “rewarded” with the slice containing the fava bean is usually designated to prepare the cake for the following year. Whoever receives the slice with the surprise has the right to make a special request and will have luck and wealth in that year.
There is a fair share of followers of different faiths in this country but the differences are relegated as everyone celebrates the yuletide with funfair. Many streets are dotted with Christmas trees, while the red and wine colour of Santa Claus (popularly called ‘Father Christmas’) become fashion signature. It is a solemn celebration of Christ’s birth no doubt, but kids find fun in lighting up ‘knockouts’ and ‘banga’, which are like firecrackers. What you can’t miss during Christmas in Nigeria is plenty of food, parties and of course exchange of gifts. Recreation sites also usually boom with activities as people usually turn out in large numbers to catch fun.
This francophone country celebrates Christmas in colours and style. It is not only a time for brisk business, but of fun and great party. Need I say, in Ouagadougou, Christmas is a big feast.
Christmas is one of the best times to explore the depth of Ivoirians’ creativity. From handmade nativity scene with a markedly more African feel to local shops bustling and graced with seemingly incongruous decorations — such as faux snow and fir trees, there is so much to see, do and enjoy here at Christmas. Recreation sites are also usually busy as people normally turn out in large numbers to catch fun.
Christmas in South Africa is celebrated in summer and temperatures do get quite warm. Cape Town usually come alive with bustling activities in a city decorated in Christmas colours and glistering lightening. Typical Christmas meal here includes turkey, suckling pig, mince pies, yellow rice etc. People also enjoy delicacies like Christmas Pudding and Lekker Pudding. Christmas Carols singing on Christmas Eve is very popular in towns and cities, while recreation sites throngs with people who usually turn out in large numbers to catch fun.
Central African Republic
Christmas in the Central African Republic is a cultural and religious holiday celebrated with funfair. In big cities, parties are a general feature. In Bossangoa, kids celebrate Christmas by singing, dancing and playing music.
Coptic and Orthodox Christmas
If you’re spending Christmas in Ethiopia or Egypt this year, you’ll have to wait a little longer than December 25 as Coptic and orthodox Christians in these countries follow the ancient Julian calendar and will celebrate the holiday on January 7 which is the 29th day of the Coptic month of “Kiohk”or “Khiahk”.
In Egypt, “Qurban” is a feature of Christmas. It is a bread; at which centre is a cross, surrounded with twelve dotes. These dots represent twelve apostles. After church service, people return home to have a special meal called “fatta”. Christmas in Egypt involves a lot of thanksgiving for blessings, singing and praying for a prosperous new year. Recreation sites are usually busy as well as people usually turn out in large numbers to catch fun.
The Ethiopian call Christmas Ganna. At dawn of Ganna people traditionally wear white cotton clothes called “shamma”. There are some colourful stripes at its ends. Shamma is similar to a Roman style toga. Each Ganna, Ethiopians go on pilgrimage to Lalibela. Popular meal at Christmas in Ethiopia is a stew called “wot”. This spicy stew is made of meat and vegetables. Some people also add eggs. Traditional Ethiopian flat bread called “injera” is used as sort of spoon. People tear up piece of injera and use it to scoop up mouthful of their food.
There are many ways of saying merry Christmas in Ghana but the most popular is “Afishapa” (more correctly ‘Afenhyiapa’). Christmas in Ghana features a lot of singing; dancing and Nativity play as essential parts of church services on Christmas Eve. After church service on Christmas morning, everybody hurries home to party and exchange gifts. Christmas is also when Ghanaian women give out their best cooking skills; you’ll definitely remember any ‘fufu and chicken soup’ you taste in Ghana on Christmas day. Recreation sites are usually busy as well as people normally turn out in large numbers to catch fun.
Dakar, Senegal, is one of the places you’ll see Christmas lights deck out city’s main mosque. Although most Senegalese are Muslims, when it comes to Christmas, the celebration knows no religious boundary. A spirit of solidarity between Christian and muslin creates the Christmas fun. Expect a colourful city during Christmas as the nightclubs come alive with booming bands at Christmas.
Old Man Bayka, the county “devil” is probably more popular in Liberia than Santa Claus. Instead of giving presents, Old Man Bayka walks up and down the street begging for them on Christmas Day! Instead of hearing the usual “Merry Christmas” greeting, expect to hear Liberians say “My Christmas on you.” That is a stylish way of saying “please give me something nice for Christmas.” Different strokes for different folks; but it all adds up to make Christmas fun!
Usifo Mike-Alvin is a creative writer with a knack for budget traveling and adventure. He travels across Africa and reports for www.afrotourism.com
Merry Christmas and happy holidays in advance!