Christmas in Africa

A simple overview of how people in Africa celebrate Christmas.

Most of us in the Western Hemisphere tend to associate Christmas with cold weather and perhaps snow. We see Christmas as a winter holiday. And whilst this is true for us, it is not true for everyone. Many hot regions around the world also celebrate Christmas, including Africa.

There are currently almost 400 million Christians in Africa, and that number grows significantly with each passing year. And as we might expect from a large Christin community, Christmas is a big thing. Although it Is obviously celebrated a little differently due to the climate.

Although there might be a total lack of snow, many of the ways that Christmas is celebrated in Africa are instantly recognizable. For example, the tradition of giving gifts at Christmas time is observed. As is the traditional meal of a Christmas roast, although other meats are usually substituted instead of the usual Turkey we stuff in the oven in the Western world.

Whilst Christmas might be a Christian holiday, it is one that is often celebrated by non-Christians, simply because it is one of the major global holidays. This is true in Africa, with the large Muslim population celebrating Christmas alongside its Christian brethren.

The Giving of Gifts

One way that Christmas in Africa differs majorly from Christmas in Europe or the U.S.A. lays in the fact that it is far less commercialized. Whilst we may be used to shops being stocked with Christmas goods even as early as October, this is not the case in Africa. Instead, much more emphasis is put on the religious aspect of the holiday.

Gifts are much humbler than those we tend to give in the west. A new suit of clothes to wear on Church days or small gifts of fruit and other foods are the norm. Practical gifts are also common such as school books, soap, and other practical goods that are of benefit to poor rural people.

Cooking a Family Meal

The family meal is one of the cornerstones of Christmas. And Christmas dinner is something that is also prepared in Africa. However, there are a few differences. Due to the climate, you are much more likely to find a family barbecue replacing the traditional roast Christmas dinner. But the premise of spending time with family, friends and loved ones stays the same.

Goat replaces turkey as the most often consumed meat at an African Christmas dinner or barbecue. Rice, beef, and okra are also common, with attendees bringing their own dishes to add to the event.

Religious Observances

The whole concept of singing Christmas carols door to door has been incorporated into the African take on Christmas. In certain parts of Africa, children in homemade costumes, with basic instruments will go door to door performing and receive a small cash reward for doing so.

Actually attending a church event is a pivotal event of an African Christmas. Almost every Christian will attend a service, and the traditional nativity play is performed in most churches. Again, this is a little different to the Western world, where the religious side of Christmas seems to diminish year to year.


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