Letter from Africa: Celebrating in style

Two people paragliding in Ghana in 2013 Image copyright
Image caption The Kwahus now celebrate Easter with a paragliding festival

In our series of letters from African journalists, writer Elizabeth Ohene looks at how the Easter festivities reveal the eclectic mix of Ghanaian celebrations.

Of all the public holidays in Ghana, and we have quite a number, it is the Easter holidays that are the most popular; it must be because it guarantees a break from Friday to Monday.

The celebrations are a curious mix of the secular, traditional and the religious.

We take to the road, but we do not go to tourist resorts.

The Pentecostal and charismatic churches hold conventions and the members travel long distances to gather for non-stop loud worship.

I have spent what I had hoped would be a quiet Easter in an apartment within earshot of a Pentecostal church Easter convention and I would not recommend it to anyone.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Pentecostal worshippers can be very loud

The bulk of the travelling involves leaving the cities and big towns to go to hometowns and villages.

If you stay back in the city you would have the luxury of empty streets from the morning of Good Friday to the afternoon of Easter Monday.

Fashionable clothes

Going to your hometown means you need to have prepared adequately to demonstrate to the folks at home that you are making a success of your time in the big town.

Proof that you are doing well includes packing new and fashionable clothes to impress the folks and making sure you take presents for all members of the family.

The church service on Good Friday is a sombre affair and the Ghanaian love of funerals is on display.

The colour code is black or red and black; the crucified Jesus has to be mourned properly according to Ghanaian custom.

If you came to my village of Abutia you would see the mix of Christian and traditional practices come to the fore on Holy Saturday.

There is drumming and firing of musketry from dawn and you need to wear bright red shirts to blend in the crowd.

The afternoon is the time for town development meetings and levies are expected to be paid.

At dawn of Sunday, Easter Day, the Christians take back their festival with the journey to the cemetery to trace the footsteps of the women who first discovered the risen Christ.

The Sunday church service is a grand affair and the colour code is obligatory white to celebrate the resurrection.

Make sure you come to church with a full wallet because there will be three offertories, and one will be competitive between those born on the seven days of the week.

I am a Wednesday born and I always want them to do well.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Clothes worn to funerals in black and red are also worn over Easter

Later in the afternoon, there would have been a football match between "Home" and "Abroad" teams - a sentence which shows my age.

This no longer happens as most of the school football parks in the villages have been built over and the "Home" team would be made up exclusively of children and the infirm; everybody else has left town and we cannot raise a team to play on the "Home" side.

Monday, Easter Monday, is picnic day. Church groups make trips to botanical gardens with packed lunches and dance to music from brass bands.

There are gatherings around the towns and villages of chiefs and people all dressed in their fineries.

There is fundraising for development projects and church elders then moan that the most sacred festival on the Christian calendar has been hijacked.

Clogged phones

The most famous place for Easter celebration in the country is among the Kwahus, who are easily the most entrepreneurial group in Ghana.

The headline event in the Kwahu Mountains is now paragliding, which began about eight years ago.

There are some Ghanaians taking part in the activity but it appears to be mainly the preserve of enterprising tourists, from home and abroad, who are taking in the glorious views and wowing the locals.

The Kwahu towns are full to bursting at the seams with everybody coming to see how the Kwahus party and celebrate Easter.

I suspect they are beginning to wish their success had not been discovered by the rest of the world.

There is another new element to the celebrations; your mobile phone will be clogged with text messages from everybody wishing you a happy and blessed Easter.

On Tuesday, having deleted all the messages, we now start planning for next year's Easter.

If you would like to comment on Elizabeth Ohene's column, please do so below.

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