As one of the few countries around the world where Christianity is actually on the rise, the Advent season is observed and celebrated by more than 70 percent of the population of Ghana. The majority of Christians in Ghana are Pentecostal; however, a strong ecumenical council advocates unity across the nation. Similar to many other predominantly Christian countries, the mood in communities and churches across Ghana becomes very festive after December 20th and through January 6.
The people of Ghana greet each other with “Afishapa!” or ”Afehyia Pa!” during Advent season; this expression comes from the Akan language, and it combines Merry Christmas with Happy New Year. Despite a strong influx of Western culture over the last few decades, many Ghanaian traditions are still observed.
Commercial districts in the capital city of Accra start enticing shoppers with decorations and Christmas trees in early December, but heavy store traffic does not get going until December 20, also known as Yuletide. By this time, churches have been decorated with lots of flowers and colorful holiday lights. Village children stay busy decorating Christmas trees that are not necessarily coniferous; they can be young palms or sturdy bushes growing on patios. Some children also rehearse Christmas carols meant to be sung on Christmas morning.
Bus transportation is very busy in the days before Christmas as friends and relatives travel to various regions and villages of the country to be with their loved ones, and this holiday travel season is a boon for informal taxi drivers. These buses, cars and pick-up trucks are packed with passengers carrying sacks filled with produce, grains, candy, treats, and gifts.
Christmas in Ghana unfolds over two days; on December 24, the gifts that consist of food ingredients and cooking utensils are presented so that they can be used to prepare the Christmas Eve meal, which may consist of chicken, goat or pork stews served with rice, salad, peanut soup and Fufu, a type of couscous or porridge made from plantain and cassava that is equally hearty and delicious.
In the past, the setting off of firecrackers, also known as knockouts, used to take place after Christmas Eve dinner and before heading off to church to appreciate pageants, carols and Midnight Mass at Catholic churches or the nativity service for Protestant congregations. Cheap and dangerous knockouts from China have been problematic and banned, and thus this pyrotechnic tradition has fallen out of favor.
After religious services, Ghanaian families return to their homes and engage in merrymaking, which mostly consists of caroling and reflecting upon the importance of being together during Christmas. Village caroling takes place very early the next morning as kids find their presents and families return to church. As can be expected, mobile phones and prepaid cards are among the most anticipated gifts in Ghana these days.