CHRISTMAS IN GHANA: Afishapa
Christmas in Ghana
by Rev. P. E. Adotey Addo
Christmas in Ghana has always been for us one of the most important and joyous religious festivals lasting for many days in all parts of the country. It is the time for
beautiful Christmas music on the streets, on radio, television, and everywhere.
As a religious celebration the churches start preparing many months before December 25th. The preparations are so intense that one really feels as if the whole country is actually preparing for the birth of the baby Jesus.
Christmas in Ghana is the time when relatives and friends visit each other from town to town and from village to village in all regions of the country regardless of their religious persuasion. One may see people in cars, buses, and Lorries brightly decorated with Christmas themes traveling all over the place with the usual Ghanaian Joy. Many people try to at least get home by Christmas Eve to visit the Ancestral home and to visit with families and friends.
The traditional Christmas Eve Dinner consists either of a specially cooked rice and goat or chicken stew or soup and is eaten before the Annual Christmas Worship Service and all friends and relatives as well as strangers are invited. The food consumed at the Christmas Day dinners may include rice, chicken, goat, lamb, and fruits of various kinds . There may be mangoes, oranges, pawpaw or cashew fruits. The houses are always brightly decorated with beautiful paper ornaments specially made for the occasion by the families.
A tree in the center of the courtyard is also decorated . It may be a mango tree or a guava tree or a cashew tree. Usually this is done by the children and the young people in each family. Not only homes but schools and neighborhoods are brightly decorated with colorful crepe paper while we look forward to the Christmas Eve Services at the various churches. After the service there is usually a joyous procession through the streets led by local bands and Christmas Revelers which is joined by all . The dancing in the streets may continue till the wee hours of the morning. The gala mood continues night after night for a long time.
On Christmas Day everyone returns to the church in their finest new clothes and the churches are generally full. At the church we hear again the story of the first Christmas in all the ethnic languages along with the singing of traditional carols in our own ethnic languages reminding us of the meaning of the blessed birth of the baby Jesus. After the Christmas service young people receive special gifts such as special imported chocolate, special cookies, and special crackers. They are told that the gifts come from Father Christmas, (a carry over from the colonial days). The young may also receive new clothes and perhaps new shoes or a diary or a book. Meanwhile, throughout the celebration, everyone is greeted with the special Akan greeting word, “Afishapa,” meaning Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.