Christmas in Africa is an exciting and important celebration. We want to celebrate the plethora of traditions and celebrations that different cultures embrace throughout this diverse continent. Christmas in Africa is different to the snowy scenes typically associated with Christmas in America or Europe. The heat and sunshine makes for celebrating this Christian holiday a perfect opportunity to gather friends and family.
Christmas in Nigeria can be summed up in three words: family, cuisine and culture. From concerts in the urban cities to an array of masquerade displays in the rural parts of the country. There is an unspoken rule to travel back to one’s state of origin during the holidays. This is where families unite after being away for the entire year in other parts of the world or country. Ethnic delicacies are the most popular dishes during this period. From eating pounded yam and white soup in Calabar, to Banga and starch in Delta, and Tuwo shinkafa and miyan kubewa in the Niger part of Nigeria. This is not to say special Christmas rice, plantain and stew with chicken are left out of the celebration.
The Christmas carnival held in Calabar, the capital of Crossriver state is a tourist choice for most diasporans and foreigners visiting Nigeria. It is often considered the biggest street party in Africa, multi coloured costumes, cultural performances and music is the order of the week long carnival. Christmas is never complete without denominations performing ceremonies depicting the nativity of Jesus. Nigerians are decked in colorful attire, women adorned in big headscarves known as Gele, men in properly starched and ironed attires, children in African print clothes amidst well decorated cathedrals and auditoriums. Did we mention the sharing of gifts and hampers during the celebrations? The loud fireworks often known as bangers or knockouts going up in the air on Christmas Eve? It is definitely the most exciting time of the year.
In South Africa, Christmas is celebrated in the height of summer, and Christmas meals are often eaten outdoors or in gardens. The feast is typically a relaxed affair, with the purpose to enjoy good food and time with loved ones. South African culture is varied and diverse so there are no fixed customs for the cuisine prepared, the food served could range from braai which is a traditional barbecue, to dishes such as turkey, a nod to their colonial past. Christmas Eve is a popular night to take part in carol singing by candlelight, whilst many South Africans gather in groups to sing Christmas Psalms.
In East Africa, Kenyans also celebrate Christmas in their own way. The tradition of having a Christmas tree is a custom that continues to be popular in Kenya. It is common to use cypress trees as Christmas trees, and these are festively decorated using ribbons and paper decorations. In the streets, houses and churches are often decorated with colourful balloons, ribbons, paper decorations, and sometimes flowers. It is a time for families to gather together, Kenyans who live in cities travel back to the villages they came from to spend Christmas with their families. A traditional meal is prepared and eaten with family and loved ones, with dishes including barbecue-marinated goat, mutton, beef or chicken, and is eaten with chapati, a form of flat bread.
We would love to know your favourite ways to celebrate the festive period! Let us know in the comments below.