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How Christmas is celebrated in Ghana

By Lauren Melnick 3 weeks ago

Want to give back this festive season? Christmas volunteering in Ghana is the best way to honor the true spirit of the holiday.

By swapping your traditional white Christmas for the beautiful Ghanaian coast, you’ll get a meaningful adventure abroad while experiencing how a new culture celebrates one of the biggest religious festivals in the world.

Here’s what you can expect if you volunteer in Ghana over Christmas!

How is Christmas celebrated in Ghana

Christmastime in Ghana begins on the 20th of December and lasts until the first of week of January. The religious festivities coincide with the end of year cocoa harvest, adding to the country’s festive atmosphere.

Locals who work far from home return to their families to celebrate. In schools, it’s common to find children making paper ornaments from crepe paper.

On Christmas Eve, there is usually an outdoor parade, led by local musicians. At the church service, the children present a nativity play or another festive drama. It’s also common to find the attendees singing traditional Christmas carols late into the night.

With over 66 languages spoken in the country, you’re bound to hear variations of carols you recognize as well songs found only in Ghana.

Families and friends also gather around to feast on rice, chicken, goat, lamb, and fufu. Fufu is a staple food found in Ghana and is made from mixing and pounding separate portions of cassava and green plantain flour.

During the Christmas Day church service, people dress up in colorful traditional clothes. Afterward, young children receive chocolates, cookies or new clothes from Father Christmas before heading home for one more massive festive meal.

 

christmas volunteering

Dressed in traditionally colorful attire, residents of Cape Coast celebrate in the city.

Ghana Christmas traditions facts

Father Christmas

Father Christmas is a staple in many children’s lives around the world. He is universally recognized by his long white beard and cherry red suit – except in Ghana.

The children here know a Father Christmas, or Papa Bronya, as someone who wears sandals and a beautiful red robe trimmed in a golden fabric. His outfit is complete with a traditional African patterned sash and a white clock with a hood.

Another difference is Father Christmas’s gifts. Instead of leaving behind lavish toys, Ghanaian children often receive delicious things to eat.

 

Christmas in Ghana

GVI’s operations in Ghana are located in Cape Coast, a prolific fishing port.

Christmas trees in Ghana

While Christmas trees are popular in Western culture, they are not a common sight in homes in Ghana. The locals would rather use their money to buy more food for their Christmas Eve and Christmas Day feasts than on a Christmas tree.

You will usually only find decorated trees at large hotels or shopping malls. Otherwise, you might find a community tree in the center of the town. It will be decorated with colorful paper ornaments that children create for their homes and schools.

Christmastime buffets

If you’re volunteering in Ghana over Christmas, expect to put on a few extra pounds. It’s common to eat between four to five meals a day, as well as snacks in between.

With so much extra food going around, many people become “obolos”. It’s a term used to describe a person who gains weight in a short period.

Even if some families don’t have the means for regular meals, neighbors and friends will invite each other around to join in on a set buffet, throughout the two-week celebrations in December.

 

how is christmas celebrated

A GVI staff member browses a selection of fresh fruit in a market in Cape Coast, Ghana.

Funerals during Christmas in Ghana

It’s unusual to see a funeral held in Ghana over the Christmas period.

The period of festivity is all about spreading love, joy, and celebration of life. Funerals are put on hold so Ghanaians can concentrate on the good things in life and not focus on an event that means sadness, sorrow, and pain.

 

Ghana Christmas traditions

Residents rejoice in the streets of Cape Coast.

How to say “Merry Christmas” in Ghana

During the festive season, people in Ghana often say “Afishapa” to one another. The phrase comes from one of the country’s major languages, Akan, and translates to “Merry Christmas and Happy New Year”.

Children also run around on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day shouting, “Egbona hee, egogo vo!” It means: “Christ is coming, he is near.”

Where are the biggest Christmas celebrations in Ghana?

Accra, the capital city of Ghana, boasts the largest Christmas celebrations. However, you’ll also find grand festivities taking place in other towns such as Kumasi, Tamale, Cape Coast, and Ashiaman.

 

volunteer in Ghana

Participants work on developing computer literacy skills as part of a program in Cape Coast, Ghana.

Christmas volunteering in Ghana

For an authentic Christmas in Ghana, sign up for a volunteering program. You’ll get to make a genuine difference during the season of giving and have the opportunity to take part in all of the local festivities after your program ends. It’s an excellent way to immerse yourself into a new culture and make the most of your Christmas break.

Choose from women’s empowerment initiatives, volunteer with children or help to develop local communities with sustainable long-term projects. Our Cape Coast base closes on 22 December, so book on early December to avoid disappointment.