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An African Christmas

Updated: Oct 24, 2023

It’s the most magical time of the year guys! Yes! It’s Christmas. I am sure most of you are filled with the Christmas Spirit already due to the beautiful Christmas lights, Christmas trees and Christmas decorations which have been splurged all over England. Did you know people in different parts of the world have very fascinating Christmas traditions? We all know the significance of Christmas for Christians is to celebrate the birth of Christ. Although there have been a lot of disputes surrounding the actual date of His birth, 25th December is still the designated day that Christmas is celebrated. In Japan for instance, Christmas is not celebrated as a religious holiday and only became relevant a few decades ago. It is seen as a time to spread joy and cheer or even as a romantic day for couples to show their love for each other. In Austria, men dress up as a scary character for a Krampuslauf and parade through the streets to scare spectators and sometimes even chase them. Interesting huh? But anyway, this blog will focus on how people from the African continent celebrate Christmas.


Christians make up almost half of Africa's population and so going to church on Christmas day is of high significance in most African countries. The Yuletide season is all about honouring the birth of Jesus, and so church services are held on both Christmas day and Christmas Eve.

In Congo, most locals bring gifts for their respective churches. They also have over five huge Christmas choral performances by their church choir between sermons, and even a play about the birth of Christ is showcased during the service and is usually done by the kids.


Unlike Europe and other parts of the world, most Africans do not believe in Santa Claus. Most Africans did not grow up believing they would get gifts on Christmas day from a jolly white-bearded man with a potbelly, in a red suit and a magical sleigh, accompanied by a herd of reign deers in exchange for milk and cookies. It was just a few decades ago that most Africans adopted this tradition of convincing their kids that Santa Claus exists. In Liberia, people believe in Old Man Bayka, who is feared by children. It is believed that he walks around the streets and even goes door to door begging people for gifts. Also, instead of "Merry Christmas", he cries out “My Christmas is on you!" which implies “Give me something nice for Christmas".


Most people around the world celebrate Christmas on the 25th of December however the Coptic Christians in Ethiopia follow the old Julian Calendar and so celebrate Christmas on the 7th of January. They also refer to Christmas as "Genna". Family gatherings are very prominent in Ethiopia on Genna, so families cook huge meals and feast together. Also, in Ethiopia, instead of "Santa Clause", elders dress up in a sombre black robe and offer homemade bread known as "defo dabo" to children and wish them a "Melkam Genna".


In Guinea Bissau, the commemoration of Christmas begins with the eating of a dish which is made up of Scandanavian dried cod called “Bacalao”. They also have midnight mass and Christmas Street parties to which all Christians, Muslims and non-religious people are invited to celebrate with them.

We hope you enjoyed reading this blog! Happy holidays everyone!


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