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Christmas in Africa is family time

12/19/2003 News media contact: Linda Green · (615) 742-5470 · Nashville, Tenn

A UMNS Feature By Linda Green*

When students at Africa University in Zimbabwe return to their homes for Christmas break, they will celebrate the birth of Christ in distinctly African ways.

Christmas celebrations vary from family to family or from tribe to tribe, says Gitagno Dolorosa Duncan of Tanzania. However, the psychology major notes that regardless of traditions, being with family at Christmas is the most important aspect of the season.

Tanzania is a multicultural country populated by tribes that, in addition to observing international Christian practices, also celebrate other traditions during this season. For example, Duncan says, some Tanzanians who worship trees go to the mountains to make their sacrifices.

"Most of the people do their traditional practices during Christmas time because it's the only time when all of them are meeting together," she says.

While most people think of Dec. 25 as the time when Jesus was born in Bethlehem, people in the Congo regard it as a time when he is born in their hearts, says Bishop Nkulu Ntanda Ntambo. He leads the United Methodist Church's North Katanga Area and is the newly elected chancellor of Africa University in Mutare, Zimbabwe.

Christmas is a "spiritual occasion that focuses on prayer, praise and the Bible," Ntambo adds.

In his country, the traditional Christmas feast consists of chicken or goat, he says. The meal frequently includes dancing and singing. "People just enjoy (celebrating) the birth of the son of God," he says.

Zimbabwe students report that the one thing absent from the family celebration is sadza, the daily staple of the Zimbabwean meal. Rice is served instead.

As elsewhere in the world, Christmas is a merry time when presents are exchanged, Duncan says, "but there is more to it as a family."
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*Green is a news writer for United Methodist News Service.

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