Christmas is just around the corner! It’s the perfect time to have a look at how different cultures celebrate Christmas in each of the five continents around the world.
In Malawi, Christmas rhymes with Halloween. Indeed, Malawian children go around knocking doors in anticipation of gifts on Christmas Day. Many families stock up biscuits and candies which are handed down to these children when they knock.
Les fanals de Saint-Louis se déroulent chaque année, la dernière semaine de décembre sur la place Faidherbe et les rues adjacentes. Entre danses, percussions, défilé des Signares et de fanals, cette parade traditionnelle retrace l’histoire de la ville de Ndar. Ancienne coutume des grandes familles sénégalaises, le fanal remonte au 18ème siècle. A la veille de Noël, les Signares, riches saint-louisiennes métisses, allaient à la messe de minuit, parées de leurs plus beaux atours et bijoux. Elles étaient accompagnées de leurs servantes qui éclairaient leur chemin avec des lampions. Des lanternes qui sont devenues, au fil des années, de grands chars aux couleurs flamboyantes, fabriqués par les habitants de la ville de Ndar.
Like for many Orthodox churches around the world, Ethiopia follows the Julian calendar, and so celebrates Christmas, called Ganna (or Genna) on January 7th which corresponds to the 29th day of the month of Tahsas. Ganna is a strictly religious occasion with its own unique traditions. The giving of gifts is not central to the Ethiopian Christmas tradition, rather the focus is on ritual and ceremony. Many Ethiopians carry out a 43-day fast in the lead up to Christmas day. The fast begins on November 25th, a day known as Tsome Nebiyat (Fast of the Prophets), and is held through to January 7th. Ethiopians eat just one meal a day for 43 days, the meals should be free from meat, dairy, and eggs which are all avoided during periods of fasting. On Chritsmas Day, many people wear a traditional item of clothing called a Netela. Worn in a similar way to a shawl, the Netela is a white cotton garment with woven colored borders. On this day of celebration, it is not rare to see young men playing a game similar to hockey with a curved wooden stick and ball called Yágenna Chewata. According to an Ethiopian legend, when the shepherds of the Christmas story heard about the birth of Jesus, they celebrated the news with a spontaneous game using their wooden staffs!
The proper name for Christmas in Uganda is Sekukkulu. The days leading to Chritsmas are filled with activities of preparation and organisation : getting the house ready, buying food and preparing the meals. On Christmas day , it’s time to walk to the parish for mass. Christmas is a public holiday in Uganda and many people go to churches and even the non-believers join. Christmas in Uganda is a day of celebration and praying. So the majority go to church in the morning to pray; and use this chance to wish friends a Happy Christmas which means in the local language is said “Sekukkulu Ennungi.”
Many countries in West Africa including Sierra Leone, The Gambia and Liberia have masqueraders parading in the streets. In Takoradi, in the Western Region of Ghana, there is a masquerade carnival called the Fancy Dress Festival which brings together hundreds of masked men and women displaying gymnastic skills. The Festival (known locally as Kakamotobi) is held on Christmas to the first day of January every year by the people of Winneba in the Central region of Ghana.It is a colourful festival that features brass band music.The annual masquerade festival is a celebration of sheer ingenuity and living history. The tradition of masquerading emerged from contact with Dutch colonizers who introduced putting on masks and wearing fanciful attires to socialize in many coastal towns in Ghana. The people of Winneba then adopted and owned this practice by setting up various masquerade troupes—as far back as the 1930s—to create elaborate characters and perform with marching bands for the locals.
In South Africa, Australia and countries in the southern hemisphere, December falls over the hottest part of summer. The national tradition of braai (barbecue) has long replaced the Western stuffed turkey and pudding, as a more practical and fun choice for Christmas and festive lunches. Preparing a braai is not just a simple question of hamburgers and sausages on a grill. A South African reality TV show, Ultimate Braaimasters, is the most popular show for this time of the year translated into 22 different languages. Indeed, mastering the art of Braaing, heat control, marinade, side dishes, cannot be attained by any and everyone after all!
And you? How do you celebrate Christmas in your country?
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