Across the Continent, many Africans will be celebrating during the Christmas season. Traditions vary by region, with the unique flavor of national and local cultures contributing to a wide variety of festivities and approaches to the holiday. Below are just a few examples of how some Africans will be spending the holiday.
Christmas is celebrated on December 25, but celebrations extend from Christmas Eve through to Boxing Day—a day of relaxation and family time. While primarily a religious celebration, Christmas in Kenya is full of traditional and cultural activities, including special holiday foods and treats. A popular traditional meat served for Christmas in Kenya is barbecued goat, often eaten straight off of the grill. Other traditional treats served in Kenya are chapati (a flatbread) and mandazi, donuts that are delicious with a cup of tea or coffee.
As in many countries that celebrate Christmas, not all Nigerians feeling the holiday spirit practice Christianity; however, the holiday is becoming more of a general celebration adopted by the population, making it one of the biggest holidays celebrated in the country. Many people travel home on Christmas Eve, and Christmas Day is spent with family, cooking, and enjoying delicious meals cooked to perfection.
While South Africans continue to focus on the religious aspect of the holiday, they have also adopted various commercial aspects of Christmas, such as Christmas trees and decorations. Traditional meals vary between groups, including moatwana—a stew made of chicken feet—in the Basotho culture; Vendan stews with maize, meat and spinach; and morogo, served in Ndebele households. Other popular favorites are umngqusho in the Xhosa tradition, amadumbe in the Zulu culture, and chicken or goat meat enjoyed by Nguni families.
With more than 80 percent of the population in Liberia practicing Christianity, the Advent season and Christmas are celebrated by many families around the country. Most churches will hold Midnight Mass or nativity services on the Sunday closest to Christmas instead of on December 25th. Liberia has a strong American influence; for this reason, it is not uncommon to see a bit of a shopping frenzy happening during the holiday season. Those with means will share with relatives, friends, neighbors, associates, and the needy; this may lead to some people spreading themselves too thin, but giving is a tenet of Christianity.
Ethiopians celebrate Christmas on January 7th instead of December 25th due to the Ethiopian Orthodox Church following the old Julian calendar. While most Ethiopians will practice fasting Christmas Eve, Christmas day itself is full of food, worship, and family. Mass starts at 4:00 a.m., with families later enjoying traditional holiday food, including wat—a thick and spicy stew containing vegetables, meat and eggs—music, and various other activities.
Timkat is a twelve-day festival held after Christmas ending in a three-day celebration of the baptism of Jesus Christ on January 19th. The festival finale includes children walking in procession to church, musical instruments and prayer sticks carried and robes and crowns worn to represent their affiliation to a specific church.