In Ghana, just like in many other countries, Christmas and New Year’s Eve are celebrated on the 25th and 31st of December respectively every year. Fireworks, locally known as “knockout”, gatherings in churches, Christmas dishes, like Jollof and Fufu portray Christmas in Ghana the best. However, nothing marks Christmas and New Year’s Eve in Ghana as much as the Harmattan, as it comes around during the holidays every year.
Preparations towards Christmas
The Christmas festivities and celebrations usually start during the first week of December. Christmas decorations appear in shopping centers, offices, public spaces, vendors hanging Christmas cards and stylistic layouts on their stalls and stores ready for sales. In Ghana, spend on Christmas decorations, garments, and fireworks usually double during this time. One critical part of Christmas in Ghana that anybody should know is the transportation issues around these periods. A recent study proves that traveling in Ghana reaches its peak during the Christmas time frame. Christmas in Ghana is about affection and caring. Since young professionals move to the urban communities to work, they travel back home during the Christmas season to celebrate with their families. One week before Christmas, most Churches in Ghana hold conventions- a social affair where they preach, remind themselves of the reason for Christmas, and celebrate.
On Christmas morning, everyone sends each other well-wishing messages and great wishes. You will hear “Afehyia pa” or “Efe na wo”, “lame se” which means “Happy New Year and good health” in Twi and Ewe languages. Recently there is an increase in get-togethers and Christmas carol evenings few days before Christmas day. Night jams and musical shows are also clear signs of Christmas time.
Ghanaians take pride in sharing food during Christmas. Chicken, goat, and cow meat dishes have almost become part of a ritual. There is enough food for everyone during Christmas, regardless of whether you can or cannot pay for food, there is always a neighbor who is more than ready to share their food with you.
Sharing of gifts
Ghanaians typically share gifts through December, and can reach their maximum on the first of January. They share gifts with family members, religious leaders, co-workers, loved ones, and youngsters.
Did you know kids in Ghana do not believe in Santa bringing them presents? They know that their parents bring any presents they may get. Santa is known as ‘Father Christmas’ or ‘Christmas Father’ among the youngsters. It is just a reminder of Christmas to them, unlike European counterparts where believing in Santa is much more popular.
After the festivals and sharing of gifts, comes probably the best part of the celebration for children at least. The lighting of firecrackers (or ‘knockouts’). On Christmas night, parents and guardians purchase firecrackers for their kids. They cheerfully light them up, competing whose firecracker shoots up the highest and lights the sky the most. The grown-ups kick back and watch as the youngsters work their marvels. Although a few offices under the public authority have been pushing for a prohibition on firecrackers, it will clearly take some effort to make that happen.
New Year’s Eve
New Year’s Eve is not quite celebrated in Ghana like other nations do. It is simply a day of preparations for the New Year. The key observation that makes New Year’s Eve more special and is mostly an observation among Christians across Africa, is “crossover” and “all night” vigils. They “cross” over into the New Year in churches and worship centers with drumming, singing gestures of recognition, and prayers. They commit to the New Year that is under control of their Maker.
Here are some fun facts about Christmas in Ghana.
Christmas trees are not very popular in Ghana
There are stories of people who spend millions of dollars on purchasing and decoration Christmas trees. In Ghana, this is almost non-existent. TV stations, Banks, and Hotels are among a few businesses that buy Christmas trees. People who buy it see it rather as a luxury. 90% of Ghanaians would rather buy chicken rather than a Christmas tree for the Christmas celebrations. Most of the trees you might see will probably be plastic too.
Nothing says ‘Christmas’ in Ghana more than Harmattan. Cracked lips and dried skins are few signs of the presence of Harmattan. Dry winds leave a chilly feeling in the nose and skin, the air fills with dust and bright lights. This only happens once a year during Christmas, so whenever the Harmattan begins everyone in Ghana knows Christmas is around the corner.
The box office breaking, world famous 1990 American comedy ‘Home Alone’ could be easily classified as ‘The Christmas movie of Ghana'. Almost all TV stations show this classic Christmas movie every day. It has almost become a culture in the country. Every Ghanaian knows this movie.
Almost everyone is Christian during the celebrations
Ghana hosts many religions and unlike other countries where religion differences cause conflicts; Ghana is relatively peaceful, especially during the Christmas season. Everyone joins the Christians to celebrate the holidays in peace and joy.
The Christmas season in Ghana is extremely exciting. Proper preparations and planning will make it an unforgettable experience. Just remember that millions of Africans in the diaspora come back to Ghana to connect their roots during this period. Towns get extremely busy. Book your accommodation in advance and plan your trip effectively to make the best of your trip.