Christmas celebration in Africa is an annual ritual that involves lots of fanfare and goodwill. Since Christians make up 49% of the population of Africa, Christian events and holidays are religiously observed by adherents. Although certain Christian denominations do not observe Christmas, the majority of Christians observe 25th December as the birthday of Jesus Christ, the founder of the Christian religion.
Christmas in Africa is celebrated alongside the end of the year festivities so we have a long stretch of events and celebrations. There are multiple events held to celebrate Christmas and some of these are influenced by culture and custom of the people. In rural and urban Africa we celebrate Christmas differently. In the big cities with a large segment of the middle class, multiple parties and events are held everyday right from the first week of December till the last week. There are concerts, shows, carnivals, outreaches, etc. The major roads and landmarks are decorated with Christmas lights, paintings, ribbons and balloons. The traditional Christmas carols dominate the airwaves as radio and television stations play Christmas carols triggering nostalgic memories. The exploding boom and bang sound of firecrackers and fireworks display is commonplace. The shopping malls, supermarkets, road hawkers etc sell Christmas branded items and foods, offering Christmas discounts. There is a general upbeat and expectant mood in the cities throughout the period.
On Christmas day, special events are held by organizations to mark the day. Churches hold the traditional Christmas service where worshippers, most especially children turn out in their new Christmas dresses, shoes, bags and outfits. It is almost obligatory that a child must have a new Christmas dress to show off to friends and playmates otherwise the Christmas will be ruined for the child. After the Christmas service in the church, the congregation return to their various homes to eat the special Christmas dishes and delicacies with their family members and friends. The cuisines are delicious; dishes of rice, plantain, stew, soups, small chops and drinks are devoured ravenously. There is partying in clubs and bars throughout the day and even overnight.
It is almost the same thing in small towns and villages in rural Africa, the only difference being the scale of celebration and resources used. We celebrate Christmas in rural areas with music, dances, events and food. Christmas is observed as a season of homecoming where people travel from the cities and towns and head to their villages to visit their families to spend time with them. So it is a very common sight to see cars dropping by houses in villages, people trooping out of vehicles, people shouting in excitement on recognition of faces, hugging each other, chatting animatedly and sharing gifts. In the rural areas, there’s a cultural aspect of the celebration of Christmas. In Southern Nigeria for instance, masquerades in colourful costumes parade the streets of villages dancing, entertaining audiences and generating waves of excitement.
We celebrate Christmas in Africa with giving. Christmas is that time of the year where we literally open our purses and bank accounts and give out to friends, family members, neighbours and strangers. In different parts of the continent at this period, you would see many charity outreaches with different items consisting of food, money and material resources distributed to the less privileged members of the society. Families cook huge volumes of food and exchange with friends and loved ones. There are exchanges of gift items in corporate organizations and even by private homes, Christmas hampers are shared. The African Santa Claus is very active during this period as he gives tirelessly to children and adults.
Christmas in Africa is celebrated based on the principles of love, camaraderie, societal/family obligation and religious devotion. It is very exciting. It is the period of the year that most people look forward to and can only savour fully when it comes around, hence the saying, “Every day is not Christmas”.
How do you celebrate Christmas in your part of Africa?
Iniobong Leroi Umoh is a storyteller, a satirist and creative writer. He blurs the line between reality and fiction and seeks to create a connection with the reader through engaging content. His works have been featured across various online and offline platforms. He hopes to one day travel around the world on a luxury yacht, sipping expensive wine and documenting all his experiences in a journal.
You can send him a mail at email@example.com.