How Africa celebrates Christmas

How Africa celebrates Christmas

Now that the holidays are in full swing, we thought we’d take a look at how different countries in Africa celebrate Christmas. Christianity has been on the continent since the middle of the 1st century, and approximately 350 million Africans are Christian — so, they’ve had a lot of time to develop their own unique holiday traditions, like masquerade parties and dining al fresco. Here’s a roundup of the most interesting ones that we’ve found:


Ethiopia: If you’re spending Christmas in Ethiopia this year, you’ll have to wait a little longer than December 25, as most people follow the ancient Julian calendar and celebrate the holiday on January 7. Traditionally referred to as Ganna, an Ethiopian Christmas typically begins with a day of fasting, followed by church services and a feast that includes stew, vegetables and sourdough bread. Though most friends and families do not exchange gifts, communities gather to play games and sports, and enjoy the festivities together before returning to work.


Ghana: Christmas in Ghana is a well-deserved break, coinciding with the end of the cocoa harvest and beginning on December 1, four weeks before Christmas. Families decorate their homes and neighborhoods like we do here in the US, using lights, candles and sparkly ornaments. For most Ghanaians, it’s just the beginning. On Christmas Day, things really kick into full swing, starting with a family meal –- usually consisting of goat, vegetables and soup –- and followed by a church service for the whole community and a colorful holiday parade.

Liberia: No iPads, Tickle Me Elmos or Furbys here. Gifts in Liberia are much simpler, and you’re likely to receive cotton fabrics, soaps, sweets, pencils and books for Christmas. Liberians also like to have their Christmas feast of rice, beef and biscuits outdoors.


Other areas in western Africa also have some pretty cool traditions. In Sierra Leone and much of Gambia, for example, towns and villages celebrate with masquerade parties, extending the celebration beyond the faith community to include the whole town or village in the holiday spirit. As much a social event as it is a religious one, Christmas across the region brings friends and family together for food, sport and gifts.

Do you celebrate the holidays with any African traditions? Share your comments below. And perhaps you can incorporate some of these customs into your own celebrations this year.


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