Celebrating New Year’s in Africa – A Continent of Diverse Traditions

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Celebrate New Year’s is an occasion for reflecting upon and commemorating past achievements and opening up opportunities in the new year, as well as setting resolutions.

Traditions surrounding New Year’s in Africa vary according to its many cultures, often including themes significant for certain traditions such as couples with their children or a man carrying weapons or animals.


Ghanaians celebrate New Year’s with family gatherings and partying. Additionally, this day serves as an opportunity to reflect upon the past year and set resolutions for self-improvement in the coming year. Ghanaians pride themselves on their welcoming spirit; visitors are treated with great generosity during New Year celebrations!

Winneba’s Masquerade Festival is an annual highlight, having begun as a tradition brought over from Holland by Dutch colonizers, but has since evolved into an event celebrating local custom and creativity. Guests come dressed up in all manner of costumes and masks, inviting everyone in town to dance the night away accompanied by music, refreshments, dancing and drinking all night long!

Food plays a central role in Ghanaian celebrations. Traditional dishes like jollof rice, fufu, and waakye are commonly served, often with fish or poultry dishes as an accompaniment. Ghana’s vibrant indigenous cuisine reflects its diverse agricultural heritage and historic links – this includes staples such as yams, plantains and cassava alongside groundnut, palm or peanut based stews.

On New Year’s Day, people often dress to impress. Men and women will don bright, colorful traditional garments – particularly the kente cloth which symbolizes hope and renewal – while children are encouraged to don colorful costumes in celebration of this important holiday.

Ghanaians don’t shy away from public displays of affection; they love showing how close their relationships are through hugs and back pats. At mealtimes they tend to sit close without needing individual space; greeting each other with handshakes or finger clicks can be heard when greeting one another; gifts may or may not be opened upon receiving but this behavior is considered polite.

Ghanaians tend to have an expansive understanding of time. They don’t tend to focus solely on one task at once and may often have multiple balls in the air at any one time. Ghanaians are well known for their love of music, often listening to artists like Fela Kuti or Ebo Taylor at parties or gatherings.


Nigeria is Africa’s most populous nation and one of its most ethnically, religiously, and culturally diverse nations. Nigeria is a federal republic with a presidential system; the president serves as head of state, leader of government, commander-in-chief of the armed forces as well as legislative branch via National Assembly bicameralism. Nigeria boasts an economic diversity including agriculture, energy production, manufacturing facilities and service industries as some key sectors.

Like other countries, Nigeria hosts numerous New Year celebrations and parties. People attend church services to thank God for another successful year and pray for peace and blessings in 2019. Also, people take this time to visit relatives they haven’t seen for some time – something many Nigerians take advantage of to visit loved ones who may have moved far away.

New Year celebrations often include music concerts, fireworks displays and parties. Lagos – Nigeria’s capital – hosts especially lively celebrations; many clubs in this city host countdown parties at midnight led by top artists or DJs.

People enjoy spending New Year’s Day with family and friends, attending parties, making resolutions for the coming year (for instance weight loss or quitting smoking, travel plans or starting new employment etc) or making resolutions that span from physical goals such as losing weight to goals like quitting smoking or traveling more extensively than before.

Due to Nigeria’s security challenges, New Year’s Eve celebrations require extra precaution. Police and vigilante groups remain alert during this time as gunmen could attempt to attack innocent citizens during this celebration.

At these celebrations, people drink and dance; they also consume traditional foods like pounded yam, jollof rice, vegetable salad, local soups and other delicacies.

Some people make libation offerings by placing drops of water or alcohol symbolic of drops from an ancestor on the ground as offerings to them. Others eat chitlins – an African variety of yam that looks similar to coins – as an offering on New Year’s Eve in Nigeria.

Meat, chicken and fish are also among the most beloved dishes; some people believe eating poultry may bring bad luck in the coming year.


Africans do not generally abide by the Gregorian calendar; rather they follow seasonal change with an eye toward harvesting fields and celebrating new life at its inception. Therefore, most African countries celebrate New Year in summer based on lunar cycles as their primary indicator. This means they celebrate New Year in July when fields are ready to harvest and new life is being created in their communities.

End of year celebrations provide families an opportunity to honor and recognize their ancestors while acknowledging the successes they’ve enjoyed over the past year. Gathering as a family for this special event offers everyone a great way to bond through stories, sing and dance, enjoy delectable food and discover more about how their parents, grandparents, ancestors made life better for all of us.

South African culture embraces Ubuntu – which translates to humanity or “humanness” – as an important value, with this manifested during New Years celebrations with people from various races and backgrounds uniting to celebrate in unity with one another. South Africans enjoy live music and dancing; some attend church services to give thanks for blessings bestowed throughout 2018 while praying for guidance and protection into 2019.

Burundians celebrate New Year with family. A large meal featuring dishes like cabbage (sukuma), beans, bananas and stew is served at every house visited throughout the celebration period; younger children receive presents from elders while everyone plays fun games together.

Burundians traditionally celebrate New Years with feasts and traditional drumming and dancing performances, including professional drummers hired for in-home entertainment. For further details regarding performances and festivities associated with New Year’s, contact Centre Culturel Francais de Bujumbura in Bujumbura.

Burundian celebrate local holidays throughout the year, such as Independence Day, Unity Day and Melchoir Ndadaye’s assassination anniversary. Additionally, religious holidays such as Ascension of Jesus Christ Day and All Saints’ Day provide occasions to bring communities together while giving hope for a brighter future.

South Africa

South Africa celebrates New Year’s with unforgettable memories shared among friends and family, braaing (barbecuing) or spending time at the beach taking advantage of South Africa’s warm climate and beautiful landscapes.

Cape Town is famous for hosting New Year’s Eve fireworks and events at Victoriav and Alfred Waterfront, including various entertainment zones with musicians, bands, dancers and floats roaming freely around. Furthermore, there is an unforgettable carnival performance which ends with an exquisite firework display.

At lunch time, people will get together with their families and spend the afternoon sharing a lavish spread of dishes such as traditional fare like pap, meatloaf and potato salad as well as more exotic fare like kudu stew or ostrich schnitzel. At midnight, many will head into a dance club or other venues to celebrate bringing in the New Year.

African New Years are determined by the sun and moon rather than following Gregorian calendar guidelines. Fields are ploughed, and first harvest brought as an offering to Tlatlamatjholo/God as part of this festival. Elders in each village pray for peace and prosperity throughout the coming year on this auspicious occasion.

For those looking for something a bit less traditional to usher in the New Year, Cape Town Minstrel Carnival or Tweede Nuwe Jaar (Second New Year) offers another alternative celebration based on slave culture where the slaves only ever got one holiday each year – typically on January 2.

The event features a parade of cultural practitioners, men on horseback, drum majorettes and cultural performances that showcases the vibrant heritage and history of this province. There will also be arts & crafts exhibitions, horse demonstrations as well as cultural performances at this festival hosted by the Free State Provincial House of Traditional Leaders at Fouriesburg, Clarens, Kestell Harrismith Qwaqwa.