December in Ghana, with the dry season in tow, family from across the diaspora visiting home to celebrate Christmas, the pop up bars, eateries and shops to accommodate the throng of people, the general excitement of the children, the work overload of Tailors and Seamstresses to finish their handiwork, the well fed Chicken running to pick at the maize thrown it's way (oblivious to the fate that awaits it on Christmas day) is a unique experience.
Christmas as a child in Ghana meant something new, loads of fuss from visiting Uncles and Aunties, who secretly hand you some money for a treat or two, new clothing, shoes and as a girl a new hairstyle (where the natural hair is chemically straightened, a hot comb passed through the hair or braided and held tightly, (where the foreheads are on full display).
The best part of Christmas for children is the game 'Try your luck'. The game is a board full of different sizes of balloons , you pay, guess a number and hope it's for a bigger balloon. This ignites a competitive streak in the kids as they always wish to win the bigger balloons.
My memory of visiting 'Makola' (central market) in the centre of 'Accra' (capital of Ghana) during December was that of a busy scene with people bargaining, negotiating , sweating, the 'mate' (bus conductor) for the 'Trotro' (local public bus) screaming 'Circle, Circle' and passengers hurriedly joining the bus, as it's stopped right in the middle of traffic, the vast amount of different Christmas decorations that glitter as they catch the sun, occasional stench from the open gutters added to heightened sense of excitement in the air.
A walk through the market on a rather hot afternoon with the market ladies shouting 'Awula (lady) have a look at my wares', the architectural assembly of tomatoes, (I'm always tempted to shake them) the wide beamed hats of the ladies (shading themselves from the hot weather), the beads of sweat running down their faces and the display of fresh produce for the buying public is intoxicating. The sight of the Coconut seller pushing his track and stopping as several people call for his attention 'Kube Wra' and a glance of the 'Asaana' seller serving a quench busting portion of her drink in Calabash with ice cubes, gives one a difficult choice to make.
On Christmas morning (almost 80% of Ghanaians are christians) you'll find both men and women in the most colourful outfit made out of African prints or Kente ( a handwoven Ghanaian cloth) all heading to church.
Church on Christmas day is one filled with excitement, a charged atmosphere of hymns and everyone wishing each other a merry Christmas.
The other trend in Ghana was the 'Xmas Box' which most businesses had and one was encouraged to leave money in the box as a form of a Christmas token.
After lunch most families head off home to enjoy their special meal, which could be Fried Chicken with Jollof rice, Ghanaian rich Salad, Fufu (made out of Plantain and Cassava) light soup, peanut butter soup or Palm nut soup (usually cooked with Chicken, Goat meat, Beef or fish)
In the evening most familes and friends visit each other and they are plied with more food. An authentic Christmas in Ghana always has Picadilly biscuits and Danish cookies involved.
Christmas presents wasn't a requirement in Ghana, (however i stand corrected if things have changed) one was encouraged to exchange food and donate to the needy.
Remember the essence of Christmas, help a needy family, be grateful and don't forget to laugh. Merry Christmas!
Thanks to Ohema Adjoa for the Picadilly biscuit picture. All other pictures are from the author of this blog.