Letter from Africa: Ghanaians leave nothing to chance for the New Year

Letter from Africa: Ghanaians leave nothing to chance for the New Year

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Christianity is the main religion in Ghana

In our series of letters from African writers, journalist and former Ghana government minister Elizabeth Ohene writes about why she avoided New Year celebrations.

We go to great lengths here to start every year on a high note.

The belief is if things start off well on the first day of the year, the rest of the year will turn out fine.

The night-time service that sees in the New Year therefore tends to be the most enthusiastically patronised church service in Ghana.

The churches are normally overflowing.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Ghanaians like to start the year in style to make sure the rest of the year goes well

Even if you have not been to church the whole year, you make a great effort to be at the 31 December "watchnight service" to ensure that when the bell strikes to usher in the New Year, you are in church.

The church hierarchy loves it.

Of course, the offertory is generous and the congregation can be blackmailed into giving more than normal.

The need to wear white

Making sure you start on a high note means you wear white clothes on the first day of the year.

White is our celebratory and good luck colour and the idea is when you start with white clothes, the rest of the year will be full of good luck and celebrations.

The churches are therefore full of people in white clothes and even those who do not make it to church, wear white clothes wherever the New Year finds them.


If, God forbid, someone should die on New Year's Day, we would try and only release the news a day or two later " Elizabeth Ohene

Starting on a high note also means you make sure you eat well on New Year's Day.

That means people go to great lengths to eat festival and celebratory food.

It is fashionable these days for high-end restaurants to lay on special packages to attract people to spend the day with them.

Goats and sheep slaughtered

In many households, goats and sheep would have been killed, a few homes would have turkey but chicken, probably, would still be the celebratory meat in most homes.

The idea is if you eat well on the first day of the year, there is a great likelihood you would have good food to eat the rest of the year.

We take so seriously the belief that what happens on New Year's Day influences the rest of the year that people will hold back from giving you information on New Year's Day if it is deemed to be bad news.

If, God forbid, someone should die on New Year's Day, we would try and only release the news a day or two later.

You cannot start the year with such bad news.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Ghana will hold presidential elections in December, four years after the previous vote

The priests and so-called men of God come into their own at this time.

Much of the country awaits with bated breath for New Year's Day predictions.

And this being an election year in Ghana, we have had priests predicting who will win the presidential elections scheduled for 7 December.

Depending on which church you attended, you would have been told which of the two leading candidates, President Nana Akufo-Addo or his predecessor John Mahama, would win.

Tucked in bed

Obviously, nothing that will happen between now and 7 December will have the slightest bearing on the elections.

I am looking forward to a quiet life, without any of the drama that characterises my life, I abandoned my customary riotous 31 December activities and welcomed the New Year in bed.

By the end of the third day of the year, I am afraid I have to conclude that 2020 will be the same as all the others; here am I with a cold, courtesy, I believe of the intense harmattan blanket of sand that has covered the country.

A good New Year's Day only lasts for the 24 hours, the year will have surprises, there will be good days and there will be bad days.

More Letters from Africa

  • In search of Zambia's glam rockers
  • Forget your manners on Gambia's roads
  • Brides under pressure to have genital mutilation – again
  • Is Kenya building bridges to nowhere?
  • How an apostrophe meant an extra holiday in Ghana
  • The country where everyone is expected to be late

Follow us on Twitter @BBCAfrica, on Facebook at BBC Africa or on Instagram at bbcafrica

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