Christmas in Africa comes with a celebratory atmosphere, just like in other parts of the world where Christmas is celebrated. While there are various cultures and beliefs in Africa, the festive air pretty much seeps into every space.
As expected, Christian denominations are typically at the forefront of Christmas celebrations in Africa. But it is not uncommon to find non-Christian family members celebrating with their Christian families.
Differences in faith generally do not keep people from celebrating Christmas, except in regions dominated by non-Christians. Overall, differences in cultures are more telling on how Christmas is celebrated in Africa.
Christmas Traditions in Africa
Christmas in Africa is typically merry. It comes with work holidays, family reunions, feasts, and worship at a church.
In some churches, the members go to church for worship on the night of Christmas eve. Then they return on the morning of Christmas to feast and host visitors.
In some others, the members go to church on the morning of Christmas and then return later in the morning to feast and celebrate.
Food is arguably the most important part of Christmas celebrations in Africa. Cooking and eating are bonding moments for most families. Some of the most interesting conversations happen when cooking and eating.
In Nigeria, rice is one of the most common meals prepared during Christmas. It could be prepared as jollof rice, fried rice, or both together with fried chicken, turkey, beef, or fish. It may also come as white rice with beef stew or fried chicken/turkey stew. Besides rice, people also prepare cultural dishes, and there’s a broad range of those to choose from.
In South Africa, yellow rice plus raisin/vegetables with beef, duck, chicken, or turkey is pretty common. Besides this, Malva pudding, Koeksister, and roast potatoes/potato bake are also popular during Christmas.
Christmas nights in South African cities may involve an outdoor barbecue called Braai. It is another part of the celebration that allows family and friends to unwind and enjoy the merriness.
In Kenya, the Christmas meal is typically vegetables and potatoes with beef stew. Then there may be some Chapati and grilled meat too.
Besides preparing all kinds of delicacies, especially African delicacies, an essential part of the Christmas celebration in Africa is music. You’ll find various homes and businesses playing all kinds of music – both gospel and non-gospel. Music strongly contributes to the atmosphere in the busiest/most-populated areas. When such areas are too quiet during Christmas, the mood might even feel gloomy.
The Christmas gifting culture is not quite standardized – how gifts are shared varies across the economic class. But in most cases, the kids get gifts even if the adults don’t. Their gifts come as toys, books, and new clothes, but in many cases, the gifts are new clothes. Kids in orphanage homes also get gifts and food to feast on.
Families celebrating Christmas also give food to people who are not celebrating Christmas. So, you can think of this as part of the gifting culture.
You are unlikely to come across the usual Christmas pine tree in an African home. But then, you will find string lights, wreaths, paper ring decorations, and other similar decorations.
If you do find a Christmas pine tree in an African home, it is most likely artificial. However, in some parts of Africa, people use palm trees or mango trees as their Christmas trees instead of pine trees.
How to Say Merry Christmas in (South) Africa
South Africa has multiple languages. So, South Africans say merry Christmas in many ways, including:
- Geseënde Kersfees – Afrikaans
- Ukhisimusi Omuhle – Zulu
- Mahlogonolo a Keresemose – Northern Sotho
- Masego a Keresemose – Setswana
- D’uvha la mabebo a Murena l’avhudi – Tshivenda
- Krisimesi emnandi – Xhosa
- Keresemese e monate – Sesotho
When Is Christmas in Africa?
In most parts of Africa, Christmas is celebrated on December 25. However, Ethiopians and Coptic Christians in Egypt typically celebrate Christmas on or near January 7. This difference stems from the choice of Coptic Christians to keep using the Julian calendar instead of the Gregorian calendar.
Christmas in Africa Song
Some of the most popular Christmas songs in Africa are renditions of the classics. Some of them include:
Joy to the World – African Children’s Choir
Little drummer boy – Alex Boye ft Genesis Choir
Another popular song is 12 days of Christmas by various artists, including 2face Idibia, Yemi Alade, the Yamoto Band from Kenya, Eddy Kenzo, and Waje. Besides the classic Christmas songs, you will come across various Christmas/end-of-the year songs across Africa. Many of these songs are in local dialects, so the options are pretty vast.