Most common Christmas traditions in Africa to look out for

Christmas in Madagascar — Photo Credit: Jamia Mosby, Kiara Berron

Christmas has become an integral part of the African culture and different African communities have different ways of celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ. In Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Egypt, Christmas is celebrated on January 7, therefore, nothing significant is done during the holiday season.

However, in all other parts of the continent,  there are activities that have become traditions during Christmas in Africa. Below are some Christmas traditions in Africa you cannot miss when you visit.


A lot of Africans travel to their villages on Christmas Eve so as to celebrate the day with family. The airports get filled up with Africans from the diaspora who usually opt for an African Christmas over the white variety. Who likes the cold anyway? Bus stations are also crowded with people who are in a haste to catch the festivities in villages and towns where their extended families live.

Roasting Meat

Goats are very much desired in many African communities for the Christmas festivities. In Ghana, Liberia, Nigeria, and many parts of East Africa, goats are roasted on Christmas day to be eaten with either soup or rice with the family. Children are also offered biscuits and drinks as the elderly drink beer to the tune of music.

Masquerade Parties

Many countries in West Africa including Sierra Leone, The Gambia, and Liberia have masqueraders parading in streets, dancing, and begging for money. They scare children and never leave until the parents hand out some money. In Takoradi, in the Western Region of Ghana, there is a masquerade carnival called the West Side Carnival which brings together hundreds of masked men and women displaying gymnastic skills.

Street Music

Music is blared on street corners in West Africa on Christmas Day as part of the festivities. Sometimes, no one could be found near the large speakers that could be heard many meters away in Ghana. The music is played in Ghana until the New Year. There are times when passersby stop to display their dance skills if they get moved by the local songs.

Trick or Treating

Unlike the Halloween tradition, children in Malawi go around knocking on 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. Children in Liberia and Uganda sing Christmas songs for money when you open your door.

Trees and Stockings for Santa

Trees are put up in South Africa and children leave stockings for Santa outside their doors. This western-style Christmas is not observed in major parts of Africa. Palm trees are usually decorated in West Africa and there are no stockings or the expectation of Santa Claus. You will find fake trees at public places mounted by city authorities with decorations in Nigeria and Ghana.

Exchange of Gifts

Many African countries exchange gifts such as biscuits, soft drinks, and food. You may receive some jollof rice and Fanta if you are in Ghana. You must reciprocate the kindness by also giving a gift. Anything will be appreciated as part of the holiday spirit.

New Clothes

Christmas Day is the day to wear new clothes and hairdos in Africa. On December 25, many people come out looking dapper and the women wear makeup. Children are also dressed in new clothes and they are not afraid to flaunt what their parents bought for them during the season. It is not Christmas without new clothes.

Christmas Morning Church Service

Many Christians in West Africa attend Christmas morning church services in addition to that of Christmas Eve. The church service is where new clothes are exhibited while the preacher talks about the story of the birth of Christ all over again. Carols are also sung in the decorated churches.

This article by Ismail Akwei was first published on

Published by Ismail Akwei

Ismail Akwei is an international journalist, digital media and communications professional, editor, writer, arts, culture and tourism advocate, human rights activist, pan-Africanist, tech enthusiast and history buff. He has worked with multinational media companies across Africa and has over a decade’s experience in journalism.

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