Christmas is an annual festival, commemorating the birth of Jesus Christ, observed primarily on December 25 as a religious and cultural celebration among billions of people around the world.
In Africa, the religious and cultural celebration has become an integral part of the African culture and different African communities have different ways of celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ.
Largely becoming a secular holiday, most people join in the celebrations, whatever their beliefs, with large-scale gatherings, fireworks and firecrackers, and other public festivities.
While it has its roots in religious traditions dating back thousands of years, some African countries, at a point in time, did not really appreciate the idea of Christmas and cancelled celebrations for various reasons. Below are some of them:
In December 2014, soldiers were directed to be on the streets to ensure that there were no Christmas festivities in the country that year as part of moves to combat the spread of the Ebola virus.
Sierra Leone had then overtaken Liberia to be the country worst affected by the killer virus and was in a state of emergency which prohibited public gatherings.
“There will be no Christmas and New Year celebrations this year,” said Palo Conteh, the country’s Defence minister and then head of its Ebola response team.
“We will ensure that everybody remains at home to reflect on Ebola,” he said.
“Military personnel will be on the streets at Christmas and the New Year to stop any street celebrations.”
Bars, schools, and nightclubs had then been shut down because of the virus. Christmas is widely celebrated in Sierra Leone, although Islam is the largest religion.
In December 2015, the government of Somalia cancelled Christmas and New Year’s celebrations in the Muslim country with reasons that the festivities “have nothing to do with Islam.”
“We warn against celebration of Christmas, which is only for Christians,” Sheikh Mohamed Kheyrow, director of Somalia’s ministry of religion, said on state radio.
“This is a matter of faith. The Christmas holiday and its drum beatings have nothing to with Islam.” The government directed the police, national security agencies and officials in the capital Mogadishu to stop any form of Christmas celebrations.
Officials said that Christmas celebrations may attract attacks from the Islamist militants, al Shabaab that had previously targeted hotels in the city. Foreigners were allowed to mark the Christmas holiday in their own homes, but hotels and other public places were prohibited from marking the day.
The West African country also cancelled Christmas and New Year celebrations in December 2014 because of Ebola, but only in its capital, Conakry.
“Large-scale gatherings in public places are suspended for the moment,” Conakry governor Soriba Sorel Camara then said. Fireworks and firecrackers were banned while beaches remained closed. Officials further urged residents to shun any activity that could ruin their efforts to contain the spread of the deadly virus. That included avoiding “all gatherings in markets, bus stations, ferry landing stages, hospitals and the airport.”