Ghana is a very religious society. I believe Ghana has the most churches and mosques per square km in the world. People usually answer “by the grace of God, I am well” when I ask how they are doing. Ghanaians all over Ghana go to church each Sunday or Mosque each Friday and sometimes on other days of the week too for Wednesday service, Qur’an teachings or “Friday-all-night”.
So it did surprise me a lot when I realized Christmas is not a big deal for Christians in Ghana. Ok, banks and shopping malls get all dolled up with tinsel, red bows and Christmas trees (although both my husband and I have seen trees turned upside down) and businesses are supposed to give their employees and clients “Christmas hampers” or baskets full of goodies (often rice, oil and cake).
But there is no general Ghanaian Xmas celebration style with say a huge dinner and gifts, nor is there a time for peace and quiet or to even assume your friends and family are busy – a friend was invited to a wedding on the 24th!
Then maybe it makes sense that New Year’s Eve is indeed a religious holiday. I just wonder where in the Bible church-leaders find their support for celebrating the end of the year rather than Jesus’ birthday…
So what does religion have to do with New Year’s Eve in Ghana? Well, on this evening many Ghanaians go to church, also those who rarely go (you know who you are!) will find a way to, everyone is dressed in white, the whole thing is quite peaceful and most churches congregate outdoors because of the huge crowds or as in the case of popular pastor Mensa Otabil (see the billboard pic taken in traffic today above which inspired this post) – at the Accra Sports Stadium!
See other posts on Ghanaian New Year’s Eve here and here.
> Seriously, Ghanaians!?
Noone is throwing a New Year’s Eve party? Not even a small one?
”Traditionally” (would be interesting to know when and where this practice comes from), New Year’s Eve in Ghana is a day for contemplation, gratitude and prayer – clearly a Christian holiday! Most people dress in white (celebratory clothing) and head for the churches around 8-9 pm. The final hours of the year is spent praying, listening to sermons and singing hymns. Many times, the sermons are held outside the church room, as the crowds cannot fit inside the chapels and churches. The transition to the new year has nothing like the festive ”10-9-8-7…”, rather it is a very serene and gradual change with nothing special to mark midnight. However, around 1 pm, many people start heading home. (And from what I hear, some of these churchgoers then changes into other clothes and head out for a drink, but this is a different story).
So, what is the problem? Well, it is strictly personal, I suppose: I just miss the European way of celebrating New Year’s Eve. I miss having to choose between parties. I miss the anticipation for the New Year. I miss planning ahead for a most luxurious evening with shiny and glittering outfits, chilled champagne and beyond good foods. I miss the obligatory chant of ”10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1-HAPPY-NEW-YEAR!” I miss kissing friends and family in a delirious state and then topping it off with more bubbly and dancing!
However here in Ghana, it seems no parties are planned for tomorrow night and I am still the only one considering Christmas the main Christian holiday in December.
Pic: Party outside of Ghana.