Eleven-year-old Atsu wakes up early; he can barely contain his excitement because today is the day he has been waiting for all year! Santa and presents are not on his mind – no, these do not occur to him. Instead, he is excited today because he knows there will be a feast! He thinks about grilled chicken, jollof rice, waakye (rice and beans), dodo, and suya. Yummy! Atsu jumps out of bed and dashes to the kitchen at full speed, almost tripping on his baby sister in the hallway. Before we tell you what Atsu finds and how he enjoys his Christmas, let’s take you on a culinary journey to a Christmas feast in Ghana, West Africa.
In Ghana, food plays a crucial role in celebrations. Joy and merry making are not complete with nothing to eat or drink. Imagine Christmas with no food, bland, right? Yes, we think so too!
On Christmas morning, most families come together to prepare different sumptuous meals that keep children, friends, and neighbors drooling. Anyone within a reasonable distance can smell the aroma from the rich spices emanating from the kitchens. A typical Ghanaian Mama loves ginger, garlic, onions, green spices with a host of hot peppers that add flavor and a whole lot of heat. Chicken and meats are marinated then grilled or deep-fried to a delicious brown crisp; stews are made with lots of tomatoes; rice is stir-fried, and pastries are baked to perfection. Then, after a few hours of laughter, love, and hard work, the home chefs emerge with a feast for all! The table has so much food, including jollof rice, grilled chicken, goat stew, waakye, lightsoup, and pastry rolls.
After missing his baby sister by inches as he hurried to the kitchen, Atsu bumps into his mother, helping grandma and two aunties blend spices, chop meats, and prep the feast. Pots stand on all four burners, and there is not a space in sight on the countertops. To his delight, his mother gives him a few helpings of food that’s ready instead of the regular maize porridge (Ekoegbemi) for breakfast.
Atsu’s family always celebrates Christmas at his grandparent’s home with uncles, aunties, cousins, and neighbors. Later in the day, when the food is ready and served, everyone takes their place at the table. Grandma sits at the head of the table, makes a few jokes as everyone settles in, then says a gratitude prayer for the year’s blessings and for grandpa who passed a few years ago. Once grandma finishes, the chatter and laughter immediately begin. They pass around the food, adults help serve young children, and the bigger kids pour drinks. Atsu knows that grandma’s Christmas jollof rice and grilled chicken is always amazing. He fills his plate with as much as he can fit in it. After gobbling the first few spoons and tearing through the well-spiced chicken, he sighs and whispers, “evivintor,” which means very lovely in Ghana’s Ewe language, showing appreciation for the food with a nod and broad smile. Everyone laughed!
Later that afternoon, satisfied and rested, Atsu leaves the adults at home to join his friends in the neighborhood soccer field for a good game. They share stories of the Christmas foods they’d eaten, what they loved best, and how they plan to eat more when they return later that evening. Then, the game begins; Atsu kicks the ball hard towards his opponent’s post, running fast, hoping to score a goal.
Like Atsu, we hope you have a wonderful holiday season filled with all your favorite things!