The Mukuru family of staff and customers spans more than 20 countries, with more than one million remittances sent home each month to families back home in the safest, easiest and most convenient way possible – clearly we have much to celebrate. So we’re taking a spin around the world to see how Mukuru people will be celebrating the festive season.
Just one percent of people in China are Christian, so Christmas is celebrated mainly in the big cities in department stores and on the streets with lights, decorations and European-style trees decked in paper chains, flowers and lanterns. We love the Christmas Eve tradition of giving apples wrapped in coloured paper. Christmas Eve is called Ping’an Ye meaning peaceful or quiet evening – translated from the carol ‘Silent Night’, and the word for apple in Mandarin is píngguǒ sounds like the word for peace.
Democratic Republic of Congo
Church nativity plays are the centerpiece of the festive season in the DRC. Churches usually have several choirs and plays go on for many hours. Participants are encouraged to hold nothing back when showing off their acting skills and church goers get involved by loudly booing the baddies like King Herod and the soldiers. The birth of the baby Jesus happens at around midnight and this will be followed by congregants singing until dawn.
Christmas is important in Ethiopia – it’s believed one of the Wise Men who visited Jesus came from this country. The Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church celebrates Christmas, or Ganna, on 7 January. Taking part in a 43 day fast before Christmas is a popular tradition with participants eating just one vegan meal a day. Although it’s unusual for gifts to be given on Christmas Day, there are many traditional sports and delicious dishes that are enjoyed on the day.
The festive season in Ghana is a diverse affair – with each of the 66 language groups having their own traditions and customs. It is also the start of the cocoa harvest. Ghanaians head to church on Christmas Eve night to celebration with a nativity play, and drumming and dancing. Seasonal traditional foods include stew or okra soup, porridge, rice and a yam paste called fufu.
During the festive season in India, Christian churches are decorated with Poinsettia flowers and on Christmas Eve candles are lit for Midnight Mass. After church, homemade sweets like neureos and dodol are handed out to friends and neighbours, then festivities kick off with a feast of curries, stews, biryani, Allahabadi cake and cider. Instead of traditional Christmas trees, banana or mango trees are decorated, and sometimes small oil burning clay lamps are placed on the flat roofs of houses.
Festivities in Kenya centre around family reunions, with many Kenyans travelling from the countries in which they’ve worked during the year or from the city to the villages where most of the family live. Traditionally, homes, churches and Cyprus trees are decorated with colourful ribbons, paper decorations and flowers – and Father Christmas trades in his slay for a bike or Land Rover. “Merry Christmas” in Swahili is Heri ya Krismasi.
The lion’s share of Christmas traditions in Namibia, come from the time when the country was a German colony from 1884 to 1915. The festive season starts on 6 December – or St Nicholas Day – when children get a visit from St Nicholas and have a party at schools. This is also the time when Christmas lights are turned on in the big towns and cities. While some German-speaking Namibians have been known to import pine trees from South Africa, most Namibians decorate the branches of a thorn tree.
The festive season starts on 6 December – or St Nicholas Day – when children get a visit from St Nicholas and have a party at schools. This is also the time when Christmas lights are turned on in the big towns and cities. While some German-speaking Namibians have been known to import pine trees from South Africa, most Namibians decorate the branches of a thorn tree.
Traditionally, Christmas festivities in Malawi start at church on Christmas Eve with carols sung in both Chichewa and English, depending on the church’s location or preference. On Christmas morning, the nativity story is re-enacted by local children at a special church service. Afterwards, Malawians put on your dancing shoes, performing both traditional dances performed by the community or talent shows called variety or “V-shows” performed by the youth. This is a day when Malawi’s staple food, Nsima (cornmeal porridge), is replaced by chicken and rice. In addition to a variety of local beers brewed by villagers, the most popular beverage on Christmas Day is Fanta!
In Nigeria, the festive season is often marked by families travelling back to the villages where their grandparents and older relatives live. On Christmas Eve, parties can go on all night, then families head to church on Christmas morning. Streets and homes are typically decorated in the Christmas tradition and most homes have an artificial Christmas tree. Caroling is also popular with church choirs visiting congregants in their homes to sing for them.
The South African festive season is all about families enjoying some fun in the sun. This diverse nation has taken the traditions of Christmas and made them their own. Whether you spend Christmas Day around a table set with Granny’s best dinner service, at the beach or around the braai – bathers, flip-flops, music, crazy headgear and lots of laughter are the order of the day.
The festive season starts early in the UK, with streets, shops, pubs and attractions putting up traditional decorations as early as October. Many of the UK’s biggest department stores compete informally for the most fantastic window displays to entice shoppers inside. While the festive season in the UK is a huge spending holiday, some Brits still enjoy less expensive traditions like wearing crazy or embarrassing sweaters that have been knitted by well-meaning relatives, and kissing someone under the Mistletoe.
There’s a lovely tradition in Zambia in the days before Christmas, of taking part in carol singing in the streets for various charities. Children wake up early on Christmas morning to unwrap their gifts so they can take them to church to show to their friends. After church, children celebrate with food and activities in one house, while adults party in another house.
Christmas Day in Zimbabwe starts with people dressing up and heading for church. Then it’s all about spreading the cheer with revelers going house-to-house, visiting friends and neighbours – eating, exchanging presents and keeping the party going. The biggest stereo speakers available are placed outside the front of the house and music doesn’t have to be Christmas themed – so long as it’s loud and gets you wiggling!
While Covid-19 continues to sweep through nations and our communities, please take coronavirus precautions wherever you choose to celebrate the festive season. Keep gatherings to as few people as possible and keep alcohol consumption to a minimum, avoid gatherings in confined spaces, practice social distancing, wear a mask and wash your hands regularly.