christmas babyYes Africans celebrate Christmas and yes we love Christmas. In fact, Africa loves Christmas more than any other continent and we celebrate Christmas in style. I was very surprised when someone asked me whether we celebrate Christmas in Africa. Yes Christmas is celebrated throughout Africa and it is one of the most important days throughout the continent. In Africa, Christmas is more than just a holiday and we celebrate it with passion. Yes it is true there is no snow for Rudolph the red nosed reindeer and Santa Claus to fly on but that does not mean Christmas is dead in Africa. We celebrate Christmas in a whole new style. In fact, Santa Claus would be jobless in my village in Africa because our "Father Christmas" does not need snow to travel.

In my community, Christmas means everything to us

and we celebrate it with passion. Christmas in my village comes with its own set of rules and nobody dares go against those rules. For example, Christmas without chicken is considered a "dead Christmas". Despite the abundance of sheep, goats, and cattle in my village, chicken remains the "chairman" of Christmas and has perhaps the best "personality" when it comes to Christmas. Just as turkey reigns supreme during thanksgiving in America, so chicken conquers all other favorites during Christmas period and any family that fails to "assassinate" chicken during Christmas time, has broken perhaps one of the most important rules of Christmas and must be prepared to face the consequences which include having to deal with the shame all year long.

Christmas remains the most festive period and perhaps the "best" time on the African calendar. Almost everybody celebrates Christmas because Christmas in Africa is more than just the birth of the Baby Jesus. Christians, Muslims, Traditional worshippers, etc. all celebrate christmas in their own special ways. In my village in Africa, Christmas means everything to us because it is one of the very few holidays we get in every year and it is the best time to be a kid. It is the duty of every family to make Christmas joyous and it is the responsibility of every parent to buy "Christmas gifts" for their children. Any father who fails to provide Christmas gifts has broken one of the most important laws of christmas and must be prepared to answer 1000 questions at a time. Because of the poverty situation in most parts of Africa, not so many kids receive "special" gifts from their poor parents on daily basis. For example, in my family, Christmas time was perhaps the only time we all received new clothes every year. You could get a shirt or a pair of sandals from time to time but definitely not a dressing shoe or something expensive. We only received expensive clothes during Christmas time. It is a gift every kid receives from his or her parents whether rich or poor. "Christmas clothes" has become a tradition in my village and tradition must go on.

So how do people say "Merry Christmas" in Africa? Well, that is a very big question. As you know, Africa is a very big continent with more than 2000 different languages. Every tribal group has their own languages so it depends on where you go. For example, Ghana, Nigeria, Gambia, Sierra Leone, and Liberia are Anglophone (English-speaking) countries. In other words, English is the official language in these 5 countries so it is not surprising to hear "Merry Christmas" anywhere in these 5 countries. However, you may be surprised to hear "Afishapa" which is just another way of saying "Merry Christmas" in Ghana. "Afishapa" (more correctly, 'Afenhyiapa') means Merry Christmas in the Akan language. Akan is not the only native language spoken in Ghana. In fact, there are about 46 native languages spoken in Ghana which implies about 47 different ways of saying Merry Christmas in Ghana alone. Ghana is a small country. Nigeria for example has about 550 different native languages which implies about 551 different ways of saying "Merry Christmas" in Nigeria. The good part however, is that, almost every Nigerian knows and understands "Merry Christmas" because English is the official language in Nigeria. On the other hand, countries like Ivory Coast, Benin, Burkina Faso, Central African Republic, Togo, Mali, Niger, Congo, Guinea and Gabon are Francophone (French speaking countries). So instead of Merry Christmas, you can say "Joyeux Noël" which is the most popular way of saying Merry Christmas in French.

So what do Africans eat on Christmas? Once again, that depends on where you go in Africa on Christmas day. Although there is no special dish for Christmas, anything you taste on Christmas must feel good in your mouth because that is just one of the laws of Christmas in Africa. Mothers give out their best cooking skills on Christmas. You will remember any "fufu and chicken soup" you taste in Ghana on Christmas day and you will definitely turn Oliver Twist and ask for more "Eba and Egusi soup" in Nigeria on a Christmas day. "Jollof Rice and fried chicken" also reign supreme on Christmas throughout Africa.