In some cultures, especially in the West, Easter is closely associated with Easter eggs and Easter bunnies. Mention Easter in Ghana and some think of the ‘paragliding festival.’ I will touch on this later. One may ask, what then is Easter? Basically, Easter is a Christian festival held annually by most Christians across the globe to commemorate the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. In the Church`s calendar, Easter is preceded by “Lent” (a 40 days fasting period - an imitation of Jesus` 40 days fast) and “Palm Sunday” (commemoration of the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem).
Admittedly, the word "Easter" does not appear in the Bible and no early church celebrations of Christ's resurrection are mentioned in Scripture. However, this does not by any means negate its celebration. Easter, like Christmas, is a tradition that developed later in church history (prior to the 3rd century). However, unlike Christmas, there is no specific date for the celebration of Easter; it usually falls anywhere between March 22 and April 25 every year. It is typically celebrated over a four day period, beginning from the Friday (Christened “Good Friday”) through to Monday (“Easter Monday”, “Picnic Day”, “St. Stephen`s Day” as variedly christened by different Christian bodies). Some omit the Monday and round up their Easter celebrations on Sunday (Christened “Easter Sunday” or “Resurrection Sunday). Both Easter Friday and Easter Monday are statutory public holidays in Ghana as is the case in many countries. The celebration of Easter in Ghana is characterized by a variety of activities and events (a mix of the solemn and the joyous, the sacred and the mundane) and I will do well to touch on as many as possible.
Religious services and rituals
Religious services and ceremonies are a common feature (and perhaps the most predominant feature) in the celebration of Easter in Ghana. Main-line churches in Ghana usually have church services on Easter Friday and on Easter Sunday with some variations. Aside the two services, the Presbyterian Church of Ghana for instance, usually holds a church service cum gospel outreach early Monday morning prior to having a get-together (“Picnic”) - A day referred to as St. Stephen`s Day in the church`s calendar. Plays are acted by children at church and songs sung about the death of resurrection of Christ. In some Christian circles, church members wear black attire for church service on Good Friday and are dressed in white on Easter Sunday; the black is symbolic of mourning the vicarious death of Christ and the white is symbolic of the victory Christ won over death - his resurrection.
Many Charismatic churches hold Easter Conventions and Retreats which are essentially prolonged church services and prayer meetings. Some congregants usually travel long distances to such conventions and stay at convention grounds for much of the day.
Another common feature in the religious landscape is the organization of religious camping events. These camps are usually organized for children and the youth. One that stands out for me is the annual “Easter House Party” (A youth camp) organized by Scripture Union - a Para-Church group because of my close association with such camps while in my teens. These camping events are replete with religious exercises such as Bible Studies, Sermons, Prayer, Singing but also some fun stuff such as a variety of games/physical exercising routines, socialization and many more.
Another feature of Easter festivities in Ghana is the paragliding festival held annually at Kwahu in the Eastern region of Ghana. Many Ghanaians and foreigners alike travel from far and near to participate in this festival of spectacular aerial fun, ceremony and music. During this paragliding festival, tandem paraglider pilots congregate from many parts of the world to fly local Ghanaian spectators and foreign visitors. The festival is open to solo pilots as well. Traders at Kwahu cash in on the festivities to rake in lots of profits. Suffice to say, there are usually lots to eat and drink, that is, if one has the funds. One would say this is typically Easter, for some Ghanaians and foreigners.
Entertainment / Merry making
Closely related to the paragliding festival is the entertainment and merry making associated with the celebration of Easter in Ghana; it is no doubt a fun activity but I decided to look at it separately from other entertainment programmes organized during the Easter season. During the Easter festivities entertainment programmes are all too common. One would easily find notices and advertisements about Beach parties, Music concerts, Drama shows and many such activities. In more recent times, Uncle Ebo Whyte plays and other plays are staged in theatres and are highly patronized by both the young and the old. Truth be told, Easter can really be a great period for relaxation and wholesome fun with family and friends if one has the funds, as it were.
And yes, there is the “picnic.” Picnics as used during Easter festivities are typically get-togethers organized by churches and groups of churches on Easter Monday. These are usually great fun times. Eating, drinking, games and socialization are common features of Easter picnics.
Acts of generousity
Somewhat akin to the father (God) giving his son for the salvation of humankind because of his love for humanity (the Easter narrative), there is also the sharing of goodies with family, friends and neighbours. Annually, during this period some individuals, corporate institutions and churches organize parties for the under-privileged and vulnerable; donations are given to orphan homes; gifts are given to orphans, widows and prison inmates. The mentally retarded are not left out of the celebrations as some receive food and drinks from some members of the community and charity organizations.
This has fundamentally been an attempt on my part to give an overview of how Easter is celebrated in Ghana. Trust me, it is by no means exhaustive but it sure paints a picture of celebrating Easter the Ghanaian way. And less I forget let one and all endeavour to make this years` Easter celebrations a pleasantly memorable one and do well to keep in mind the true essence of the season.