Christmas in Ghana (West Africa)
A Brief History
Ghana was once famous as the heart of the great Ashanti Empire. Also known as the Gold Coast, a center of gold, ivory and slave trade during the 17th & 18th century. Ghana was one of the last African countries to come under the control of a European power, but the first to win back its independence. It came under British control during the late 19th century, but won its independence in 1957. Despite political and military unrest throughout the 1960’s and 1970’s, Ghana is well on its way to being a politically stable and economically prosperous nation.
Now a predominantly Christian country, Christmas is a public holiday. Christmas festivities in Ghana last for eight days! Homes and schools are decorated with colorful crepe paper and the decorated Christmas tree will be a mango, guava, or cashew tree. Christmas music can be heard playing everywhere: on the radio, in the streets and on television.
On Christmas Eve, some people celebrate with fireworks and parties that last late into the night. Church services feature drumming and dancing—people sing and dance in the streets as well. Children perform Nativity plays and participate in Christmas dramas. There are more than 66 languages spoken in Ghana, and everyone sings in his or her native tongue, so a visitor may hear songs being sung in multiple tongues all at once!
On Christmas morning, after breakfast, everyone listens for the church bells to ring out the invitation to the service. During the service, Christmas carols are sung--in everyone’s own language--and the story of Jesus' birth is told. Christmas dinner may include a sheep, goat, chicken or peanut stew, rice, mangos, oranges, pawpaw, and a special soup of meat and eggs. Children usually receive gifts of new clothes; sometimes they will also get new shoes, small toys or money.
Following a delicious Christmas dinner, groups of children travel from house to house singing songs about Christmas, showing off their new clothes and receiving gifts of chocolates, biscuits and candy. Throughout the celebration, everyone is greeted with the special Akan greeting word, "Afishapa," meaning Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. In another Ghanaian tongue it is “Blonya Na Mi.”
Ghana is 69% Christian, 16% Muslim. Islam dominates the rural north, while Christianity is prevalent in the south. However, Christians and Muslims live at peace. Pray for Ghana’s continued political peace, pray for their continued economic growth. Pray for the Lord’s guidance in the lives of the president and all of Ghana’s high officials. Thank the Lord for the strength of Christian believers there, and their love of the Lord and His Word.