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5 African Christmas Traditions You Can Only Experience in Africa

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African Christmas traditions are diverse, with the various countries having unique customs you can experience. However, with similar customs, there are some general observations. If you’re visiting any African country this Christmas, here are 5 African Christmas traditions you’ll likely experience. 

Not every African country celebrate Christmas on December 25th. Coptic Christians in Ethiopia and Egypt celebrate on January 7th. This is because they follow Julian calendar.

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5 African Christmas Traditions to Enrich Your Holiday Experience

New Traditional Clothes for Church Service

Video source: Fountain Africa Network– YouTube

The whole essence of Christmas is about Jesus, and going to church on this day is an African Christmas tradition you can’t do away with. What’s more? During celebrations in Africa, you’ll see everyone clad in new clothes. From children to adults in both urban and rural areas, this is the day to look your best.  This effort speaks of good intentions, joy, and gratitude. 

This tradition is the same during Christmas day and Christmas eve. You need to appear in clean or new clothes with ornaments, pieces of jewelry, shoes, and bags, especially when going to church. If a parent or elder in a family can’t afford new clothes, at least the children are dressed in new clothes and shoes as a form of celebration. 

Christians in Africa see this as a gesture of honor to Jesus and to celebrate the goodness of the Lord all year round. Churches on Christmas sing carols,  dance, and make merry Christmas.

In Sierra Leone and Gambia, people celebrate in their towns in masquerade parties. They use fanals, large lanterns from bamboo and paper.

Cooking and Sharing with Loved Ones

Neighbors eating together. Image source: Freepik licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

One of the African Christmas traditions is buying foodstuff and cooking them, no matter how small, and sharing them with neighbors and loved ones. Africans believe that Christmas, as a celebration of birth of Jesus Christ, is also an opportunity to share with others. Hence, many households cook and share with others, or extended family.

In Ghana, for example, extended families scattered across the country meet at their parents or an elder aunt’s home to cook large meals such as fufu, jollof rice, banku, or ampesi. The family will eat together, share stories and jokes, and pray together. Its a special moment as they also celebrate end of the cocoa harvest.    

In Kenya, christmas is synonymous with goat, chicken, or beef roast meat. In Swahili, it’s called nyama choma. To make a balanced diet, add some vegetables. Its one of the popular Kenyan dishes. Since the day is a public holiday, all these festivities spread to the Boxing day.

Unlike many African countries, people in South Africa believe in santa claus. South Africans dont forget malva pudding, one of their popular dessert.

Donations to Orphanages and the Needy

Video source: Judith Serwaa– YouTube

During Christmas in Africa, you’ll also observe individuals, families, and organizations donating various items, including a hot meal to the needy on the streets and donating to some orphanages. 

In some places, some organizations or benevolent people host events where they invite the needy to dine, dance, and listen to their needs while offering to provide solutions they can. 

Mostly, you’ll see caterers and chefs cooking delicious, healthy meals to share with those in need. The meals include soft drinks, pastries, and bottled water. Sometimes, people give out money to support children in school. 

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Household Decoration

Video source: Patience Painstil- YouTube

What’s Christmas without decorations? You’ll see people string up Christmas lights and ornaments in their houses including indoors and outdoors. Organizations will light up tall buildings or major centers at night so the whole community brightens up. 

Sometimes people decorate ornamental plants, like flowery trees, in front of their houses as Christmas trees. Because of this, traders take the opportunity to stock and sell Christmas decorations in various formats to buyers in the market, on the streets, or in traffic jams.

Africa is a sight to behold when you step out in December.  

Traveling Upcountry

Family bonding at a park. Image source: Freepik licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 

If your extended family lives far away, such as in the village, and you reside in the city, the Christmas season is the time to visit them. You’ll see nuclear families travelling far and near to observe and celebrate Christmas with their parents and give in the village. Here you’ll feast, enjoy nativity plays, dance performances, and attend the midnight mass in your local church.

Also, various churches and communities take trips to tourist sites such as parks, waterfalls, and zoos to have fun and bond with one another. 

People Also Read: Black Family Christmas Traditions: Top 8

African Christmas traditions are all about people, giving, family, and sharing with everyone, no matter how small. It’s also a time to travel to visit your village and bond with cousins. 

What’s your African Christmas experience?

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Sedi Djentuh
Sedi Djentuh
Hey, Sedi here, a content writer. She's fascinated by the interplay between people, lifestyle, relationships, tech and communication dedicated to empowering and spreading positive messages about humanity. She's an avid reader and a student of personal weekly workouts. When she's not writing, Sedi is busy advocating for plastic-free earth with her local NGO.

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