FOOD: THE REAL VIP OF AFRICAN CELEBRATIONS

“A man who calls his kinsmen to a feast does not do so to save them from starving. They all have food in their own homes. When we gather together in the moonlit village ground, it is not because of the moon. Everyman can see the moon from his own compound. We come together because it is good for kinsmen to do so”. In the book Things Fall Apart, Chinua Achebe introduced to his international readership a certain lifestyle that is particular to the African people. This lifestyle revolves around the use of food and feasts to bring about a warm sense of community, hospitality, and cultural heritage. For Africans, food goes beyond mere sustenance. For Africans sharing food means love, unity, compassion, and a lot more. In African societies, food is often the center of every social gathering, celebration, ceremony, and festival. And the African people do this without being cajoled to do so. They share the same sentiments as Achebe when he said, “… because it is good for kinsmen to do so”. But are they examples where food becomes more important than the celebration itself? This article will relay instances in Africa in which food becomes the center pies of celebrations and a unifying factor, even in celebrations that do not necessarily need food.

NAMING CEREMONY

Religion Came to Africa through colonialism and brought about customs and traditions that were alien to Africans. Before Christianity and Islam, traditional African tribes celebrated their Child Naming Ceremonies with their emphasis on sharing food to celebrate with families and friends and sacrificing to their gods. But the new religion was different. In this new religion, a clergy blesses the child in an assembly of a congregation, names the child and the parents take their kid home. But Africans even in adopting this new faith, retained their former practice of celebrating this experience with a wide variety of foods. After the church service, they return to a reception, where they share food, amongst family and friends.

WEDDING

FOOD: THE REAL VIP OF AFRICAN CELEBRATIONS

In many European weddings, the events are centered on the couple, and activities tied around them, but in Africa in most cases, the reverse is the case. Just in Nigeria alone, certain tribes infuse food, into their wedding ceremonies. Apart from this food being just for sustenance, they have given roles to them that must be added to the ceremonies for it to be a success. For instance, amongst the igbo people, palm wine and cola nuts must be present at their weddings. Among the activities of the wedding, the bride is given a cup of palm wine, to go into the crowd, and return with her husband. For the Efiks the Igbos, and many other African tribes, foodstuff is a huge price that must be presented as a dowry. In many cases, they request tubers of yams, bags of rice, garri, cassava, livestock, and many more items before giving out their children into marriage. The Bamba tribe of Zambia has a tradition called Icilanga, which requires a bride to cook over 40 different dishes for her husband-to-be to eat and finish together with his family and friends before their wedding the next day. These are just a few among many African weddings that have given food roles and more emphasis.

BIRTHDAY

 

In European countries, Birthday Celebrations involve a cake, a candle, a celebrant, family members, and a few friends. But for Africans, a Birthday Celebration means the right amount of food to feed the right amount of people, and in most cases, there are quite a lot of people. Africans believe so much in communalism and unity amongst neighbors, friends, and acquaintances, and they are all budgeted for in a birthday party. You can be sure to walk into a random African home at a birthday party and come out with a plate of food. For them, it gives a sense of pride and prestige, to share their food in this manner.

CHRISTMAS/SALLAH

 

The Christmas Celebration came along with Christianity to Africa. It is a time to celebrate the birth of Jesus, and what his birth means to believers. But for Africans, this day is a day to cook bountifully and to share amongst friends, neighbors, and families. This also applies to African countries where the cost of living is high. For most of these countries where a three square meal is hard to come by, it still doesn’t deter them from celebrating this festive season in the art of cooking good food and sharing. Many go as far as saving and not eating well the other eleven months, only to eat very well on December 25th, and share with their neighbors. If that isn’t unique, what is?

The same also applies to the Sallah celebration. After the long fast, the Sallah is a big break to end the fast. For Africans, they make sure to make this break a spectacular one. They make for themselves a variety of food, which they share with both those who visit them, neighbors around them, and even individuals who are not of the same faith as them. For them also, sharing what they have, is a way of showing love, and warm association with neighbors and families.

FUNERAL CEREMONY

The burial Ceremony is a dreaded ceremony filled with mourning and so much pain. In most European countries, this ceremony is displayed by the black suit worn, the dark and rainy day, and the solemn outlook that befalls everyone affected. After the ceremony, those who follow the bereaved to their homes, try to offer comfort to them. But for Africa, the situation is slightly reversed. While there are mourning and pain, the ceremony is still an elegant occasion. Families of the bereaved go the extra mile to in a sense give the dead a befitting burial, and for Africans, what this simply means is, a very extravagant party with a variety of food and drinks, opened to neighbors, friends, and the whole community. This way, the family feels fulfilled and believes to have pleased the fallen relative.

 

You must have at one time or another heard about the hospitality and communal love of the African people, and maybe you wish to experience it for the first time. Don’t worry you don’t need to wait for when someone dies!!! When you visit an African home, they will show you their warm hospitality, compassion, and love through the variety of foods they present to you, and they will be elated to do so. Do you know why? Because like Achebe said in his book, “…It is good for kinsmen to do so”.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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