The food culture in Ghana at Christmas time is characterized by cooking and eating together. Unlike in our country, there is no roast, but stews and rice.
Have you ever asked yourself how people celebrate Christmas in Ghana? Very similar to our Christmas, it is characterized by the family. Such traditions are meaningful and essentially contribute to a community. In the following article we want to take a closer look at the Ghanaian food culture and the Christmas celebration.
The Ghanaian food culture
There is one word above all that characterizes food in Ghana: spicy. Pepper, meaning hot chili is one of the most important spices in Ghana. Generally speaking, Ghanaians eat a lot of rice, dishes with corn flour and tomatoes. The food consists mostly of rice, semolina, yams, banku, kenkey, sweet potatoes or plantains. The Ghanaians like to eat all their meals warm and a cold snack, as we know it in Germany, is not or only very rarely on the Ghanaian menu. Eating is done with the right hand. This habit has a lot to do with the values of the Ghanaian people. You can find more about it here. In some restaurants the conventions of the Global North have taken root and cutlery is available for eating. However, eating with your hands is strongly anchored in the culture of Ghana and is an important part of Ghanaian food culture.
Breakfast is only rarely eaten, or rather around 10 – 11 o’clock in the form of a hearty snack. For this late breakfast, for example, a soup or beans with a sauce is enjoyed. When a sweet breakfast is eaten, it is a sugarbread, which is comparable to a milk roll.
In the coast-regions, fish is eaten frequently, while meat comes rather rarely on the table. The reason for this is not only because of the high price. If it does end up on the table on special occasions, it is usually in the form of a long-cooked stew. This makes sense, since the meat can be preserved this way longer at the high outside temperatures. A steak medium rare, on the other hand, you will not find on the plates of Ghanaians. Especially chicken is often served when meat is eaten because of its low price.
In another article we had already talked about the importance of the family in Ghana. The importance of eating and preparing food together is very similar. The traditional dishes in Ghana are not characterized by lightness. They are cooked rather heavy and rich in fat with lots of oil. They are mostly prepared in a pot and rarely in a pan. Food is therefore cooked rather long than fried for a short time. This has to do with the mentioned preservation of the food. The dishes are often prepared in the outdoors on an open fire.
As in any other country, eating habits vary greatly from region to region, but also from city to rural areas. Therefore one cannot speak of one eating habit. In the south, people tend to eat sweet potatoes, while in the north, semolina, millet and corn are used. Because of the access to water, people eat fish in the south and meat in the north.
But what do people eat in Ghana? Have you ever heard of Fufu? Fufu is the national dish of Ghana. It consists of a mash of plantains and yam (a root that tastes similar to a potato). The consistency of this porridge is often described as chewing gum-like. This mash is served with a thin vegetable soup, or peanut soup. It is eaten with the hands.
The Ghanaian food culture for Christmas
Christmas is characterized by a variety of traditions and rituals. Because of the emotional connection with positive emotions and the family, celebrations are generally considered to be beneficial to the community. Hence the close connection with recurring processes and rituals performed by the community. Eating together with the family is one such ritual and is an important part of the eating habits of Ghanaians at Christmas. In Ghana people of Christian and Muslim faith live door to door. Not only the Christian holidays are free, but also the Muslim holidays are official holidays in Ghana. Traditionally, at Christmas in Ghana a stew is prepared with goat or chicken meat. Rice and fruits are served with it.
The Ghanaian food culture vs. the German food culture
Historically, the pre-Christmas period is not characterized by a generous supply of food, even in the Global North. Originally, people fasted during this period until December 25th. On December 24, instead of roasts, buns and cookies, soup and dried bread were served. The large, opulent food we eat on December 24 was actually served on December 25. In Christian regions around the world, the goose, duck or turkey has become the favorite for Christmas dinner. But also carp or bratwurst are not untypical. As in Ghana, one cannot speak of a single tradition or menu at Christmas.
Christmas in Germany means candles, lamps and fairy lights, the more the better, but in Ghana it looks different. We in the Global North are not even aware of the privilege of having enough electricity available. In Ghana, because of the frequent power cuts and especially because of the considerable cost factor, people resort to candles, or kerosene lamps. Differently than with us these are however not signs of a Christmas mood, but normal everyday life.
While in Germany roasts and mainly meat are eaten at Christmas, in Ghana fufu, yam, manioc, plantain and rice are being served. And also our beloved Christmas cookies, which find their way into the households from November on, are rarely seen in Ghana. This is mainly because most households do not have an oven.
Even if big differences between Germany and Ghana became clear, cooking and eating together with the family can be seen as a transnational tradition. This tradition connects us all.