Saturday, 7 September 2013

12. Christmas in African Nations

Christmas celebrations in African nations is characterized by

much outdoor activity because the season often occurs during a time

when the weather is pleasant. Using palm trees and participating in

processions are also characteristic features of activities related to

Christmas in many parts of Africa.

In South Africa, activities that occur outside during Christmas

include the usual caroling, but also the unusual ones of swimming and

camping. The beach and mountains play an important role during

Christmas in South Africa because the season occurs during the hottest

time of the year - summer.

Given the pleasant nature of the weather during Christmas,

families also take advantage of it by often going sightseeing in the

countryside on a relaxing drive in the late evening of Christmas Day. A

rich and sumptuous menu that includes a suckling pig or roast beef,

turkey, mince pies, yellow rice, vegetables and puddings usually makes

up the traditional South African Christmas dinner.

To create a festive environment, decorated pine branches and fir,

sparkling cotton wool and tinsel are used in homes and businesses as


A similar decorative pattern of using evergreen, palm trees and

lighted candles are also seen in countries such as Ghana and Liberia.

While these are used in homes and businesses, they are also often

carried in processions and during caroling activities.

While South Africans gather at the beach during Christmas time to

enjoy the warm summer waters, people in other African nations often

gather outside at in town squares and in the streets to march, sing and

enjoy an overall feeling of merriment.

Despite the seemingly general similarity in activities, however,

countries have their own individual style that makes Christmas

celebrations unique.

Of all the celebrations in African nations, Christmas activities

in Ethiopia stand out for their difference in when they are celebrated

and how it is done. One of the features that make Ethiopian Christmas

different is that the main celebratory event occurs on Jan. 7, around

the time known as the Epiphany or Three Kings Day in North and South


Given the general modest economic financial situations of a

significant number of the population in many African countries,

Christmas celebrations also tend to occur over a shorter period of

time, compared to activities in more wealthier countries.

Another difference in celebrations of Christmas in Ethiopia is

the participation of various people who take part in a pilgrimage and

converge on the capital city during Christmas Eve. These wanderers fill

the night air with a din of praying and chanting and create a

multicolor spectacle when they gather on Christmas morning to have a

religious service.

But retaining a similarity with other African nations, Ethiopians

enjoy a Christmas dinner that includes a meat stew. Stews, rice, root

vegetables such as yams, breads and soups often are part of the menu of

traditional Christmas day dinners in African nations.

Christmas dinners are likely enjoyed by families outside, where

everyone shares the meal while sitting in a circular pattern outside

under the shade of a sprawling tree, instead of sitting in a formal

setting at a table.

As is the practice in every household during Christmas, Africans

also exchange gifts. Popular items that are exchanged as Christmas

gifts include cotton cloth, soaps, sweets, pencils and books, all very

practical items that can be readily used. Again, this may be related to

the modest financial resources of up to half the population in many

African countries, as well as to cultural norms. Individuals aren't

able to afford extravagant gifts but they still want to surprise

children, family and friends at Christmas with an unexpected gift. The

generally pervasive cultural norm of humility and modesty that exists

among traditional African peoples, also plays an important role in not

having overreaching extravagance at Christmas.

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