Do Africans celebrate Christmas? How do Africans celebrate Christmas? What do Africans eat on Christmas? How do you say "Merry Christmas" in Africa? What makes Christmas so special?
To begin, yes, Africans celebrate Christmas and yes, we love Christmas. In fact, Africa loves Christmas more than any other continent and we take Christmas to a whole new level. Christmas is celebrated throughout Africa and it is the most wonderful time of the year.
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 travel 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 community in Africa because our "Father Christmas" does not need snow to travel. Unlike Santa, Father Christmas can travel even on horses and horses are way faster than reindeers. This means, you get your presents on time.
Christmas remains one of the most festive periods on the African calendar and perhaps the best season to be a kid in Africa. 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 community, Christmas is so special to us because it is one of very few holidays we get in a year. In my community, Christmas has become a tradition and tradition must go on. 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. It is a gift every kid in my community receives from his or her parents whether rich or poor. "Christmas clothes" has become a tradition in my community 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 its 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 (or Happy New Year) in the Ashanti language. Ashanti is not the only native language spoken in Ghana. In fact, there are about 46 native languages spoken in Ghana today which implies, there are about 47 different ways of saying Merry Christmas in Ghana alone.
Ghana is a small country compared to giants like Nigeria. Nigeria for example has about 550 different native languages which implies about 551 different ways of saying "Merry Christmas" in Nigeria. The best part however is that, almost every Nigerian knows and understands "Merry Christmas" because English is the official language of 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.
To a white Afrikaner in South Africa or Namibia, you can say "Geseënde Kersfees" which is simply "Merry Christmas" in Afrikaans. You may hear "Melikam Gena!" in Ethiopia which is just another way of saying Merry Christmas in the Amharic language. In Nigeria, you may also hear "Iselogbe" which is just another way of sayin Merry Christmas in the Edo language. Among the Fulani-speaking people of Niger, Nigeria, Benin, Cameroon, Chad, Sudan, Togo, Guinea and Sierra Leone, you may hear "Jabbama be salla Kirismati" which is the most popular way of saying "Merry Christmas" in Fulani. Also, among the Hausa-speaking people of Niger, Nigeria, Ghana, Benin, Cameroon, Ivory Coast, and Togo, it is very common to hear "barka dà Kirsìmatì" which is another way of saying Merry Christmas in Hausa (one of the most popular native languages spoken in Africa today).
Among the Zulu-speaking people of South Africa, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique and Swaziland, you may hear "UKhisimusi omuhle" which is simply "Merry Christmas" in Zulu. Among the Swahili-speaking people of Tanzania, Kenya, DR Congo and Uganda, you may hear either "Krismasi Njema" or "Heri ya Krismasi" which are the two most popular ways of saying "Merry Christmas" in Swahili (one of the most popular native languages in Africa today). Among the Yoruba people of Nigeria and Benin, you may hear "E ku odun, e ku iye'dun" which is just another way of saying "Merry Christmas" in Yoruba. Also Among the Igbo-speaking people of Nigeria and Equatorial Guinea, you may hear "E keresimesi Oma" which is just another way of saying "Merry Christmas" in the Igbo language.
Among Lingala-speaking people of DR Congo, Congo-Brazzaville, Central African Republic and Angola, you may hear "Mbotama Malamu" which is just another way of saying "Merry Christmas" in the Lingala language. We can go on and on.
So what do Africans eat on Christmas? Once again, that depends on where you go in Africa on Christmas day. In my community, Christmas without chicken is considered a "dead Christmas". Despite the abundance of sheep, goats, and cattle in my community, chicken remains the "chairman" of Christmas and has perhaps the best "personality" when it comes to Christmas dishes. Just as turkey reigns supreme during Thanksgiving in America, so chicken conquers all other favorites during Christmas period in my community in Africa. In fact, 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).
Although there is no special dish for Christmas, anything you taste on Christmas day must feel good in your mouth. Mothers give out their best cooking skills on Christmas day. 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 day in Africa. When it comes to drinks to wash down, many people in my community prefer to go local on Christmas day. In fact, the local "palm wine" replaces fanta, coca cola, and most other foreign drinks on Christmas day in my Community.
Let's eat, drink, help the poor and the needy, make new friends, play safe, and enjoy Christmas.