“Afishiapa”: Christmas in Ghana celebrated the commercial and traditional way
This Christmas season millions of people around the world will be celebrating the birth of Christ in many different ways. In many countries around the world Christmas has been commercialised with the focus on bright lights, Santa Claus, mistletoe and gifts. However some countries have managed to maintain and promote the real reason for season!
In Ghana traditional Christmas observances revolve around large family gatherings, feasts, singing, and church services. Before Christmas day following the run up to Christmas (Advent) many churches blossom with flowers and palm branches. Some congregations decorate a tree on the church grounds in honor of the coming holiday. In the last few days before Christmas jam-packed buses, trucks, cars, and boats criss-cross the country, ferrying people back to their ancestral towns and villages.
On Christmas Eve families gather for a special dinner, often consisting of chicken stew or dishes made from rice and goat meat. Then they head off to church services that usually include a Nativity play or Christmas pageant performed by the congregation’s youth. After church, people greet one another and exchange good wishes for the holiday. Processions form and ramble joyfully through the streets, led by bands of musicians. Children dash about shouting, “Egbona hee, egogo vo!”, “Christ is coming, he is near!”
Then to the big day, Christmas Day and festivities begin quite early, sometime before dawn, as groups of carolers go door to door singing songs. House-holders typically offer small presents to the singers, who represent the band of angels that brought the good news of Jesus’ birth to the shepherds Christmas Day church services are scheduled for mid-morning. They feature the retelling of the Nativity story and the singing of many hymns and carols in local languages. After the service is over, children collect candies and other sweet treats said to have come from Father Christmas. Some also receive a book, new clothes, or shoes as Christmas presents. People greet each other, saying “Afishiapa,” which means “Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.”Christmas celebrations continue through the day as families, friends, and neighbors gather for feasts and dances. Typical foods eaten at Christmas time include peanut soup, fufu, okra soup, and a meat such as chicken, goat, sheep, beef, or pork. Brightly colored paper ornaments pinned up throughout the house set a cheery mood for the festivities. Many Ghanaian families also decorate a tree growing in their courtyard with paper ornaments. Often mango, guava, or cashew trees serve this purpose. Other families will bring a single tree branch into the house and decorate it with lights and ornaments.
Like many western countries Christmas in Ghana is all about family, friends, goodwill and food! However importantly the message of the birth Christ does not get lost and remains the focus of the celebrations which is good to see.
Will you be in Ghana this Christmas? Will your celebrations mirror those above and more importantly what will you be eating; chicken, beef, pork goat or you gonna just lump for Turkey?
PS: If you are celebrating Christmas in Ghana this year, Check out www.wamcampaign.org for more details on how you can make a difference in the lives of children and young people.
Ben JK Anim-Antwi (@Kwesitheauthor)