Christmas is celebrated throughout West Africa in Christian communities - in fact, in some areas, even non Christians join in and celebrate. Though regional differences abound, returning home to be with family, attending midnight mass and/or Christmas day church service, and giving the gift of new clothes are prevalent ways of celebrating.
|Family celebrating Christmas in Ghana|
Photo Credit: Jason Finch
GhanaChristmas is an important Christian holiday in Ghana, celebrated with church services, caroling, feasting, and giving small gifts. Houses and sometimes fruit trees are decorated with paper ornaments, and the most traditional gift is new clothes for a new year. Celebrations start in full with festive Christmas Eve church services, filled with singing from church choirs, dancing and a nativity play. Often after the service, there are joyous processions through the streets led by local bands. Sometimes the services and dancing goes on all night. On Christmas day, people come out in their traditional clothes and fill the churches. When they return home, they exchange gifts. Children are told that gifts are from Father Christmas. Christmas meal in Ghana is often rice and goat or chicken stew, or okra (gumbo) soup, porridge and pounded yam (fufu). Some people also go to church on the 31st December to thank God for sending Jesus Christ.
One of the Christmas greetings is a special Akan word "Afishapa" that means Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. Akan is one of 79 languages spoken in Ghana.
There is also a special tradition in some areas of honoring midwives. The Ga people love to recount the legend of Anna, a woman who is said to have assisted in the birth of Christ in Bethlehem and saved his life from a jealous king, and the story is told every Christmas. Midwives are honored by being showered with gifts.
|Nativity from Cote d'Ivoire|
Photo Credit: Josh Hale