Tag Archives: tradition

Thanksgiving Recipe 2014

London Thanksgiving Dinner
1 Portuguese
1 Australian
1 Briton
1 Irishman
1 Dutchwoman
1 American
8 supermarket trips
3 hours of cooking
5 Thanksgiving dishes (divided)
2 holiday candles
3 bottles of wine

Mix for 3 hours, stirring in 20 minutes’ worth of stories explaining the origin of Thanksgiving holiday and traditions (Optional: add 1/2 cup skepticism and a healthy dash of snark).

To make gluten-free or historically accurate, may substitute alternative Thanksgiving accounts.

Serve hot.


Kente Weaving

121108_KP_Kente ClothIMG_8488-6

Kente Cloth is traditional cloth strip-woven from brightly-colored fibers into distinct geometric patterns. It’s probably the most immediately recognized African textile identifiable by the average westerner, even if the name is elusive.

Though the origin of this weaving style is up for debate (was it first made by the Ashanti of greater Ghana or the Ewe of the Volta Region and Togo?), its significance and appreciation is universal. Today the weaving patterns are printed on everything from hats to bags to plastic plates, and the artistic appeal has spread worldwide.

One of my neighbors recently began weaving his own Kente on a loom set up between our houses. I’m still amazed by how quickly these loom-masters work.

The Late Departed

Christian Funerals in Ghana are a big deal. Really big.

Ghanaians have described them as “equal in planning to a wedding.” Some even admit their families have gone into debt to deliver a socially acceptable funeral. Though my last US funeral was years ago, I saw many differences when attending my first Ghanaian one over the weekend in Accra.


1. The Obituary

US – Typically published in a newspaper; perhaps also elsewhere specific to the person who died (i.e. society newsletter)

Ghana – Announced in church, displayed on posters and fliers around town

2. The Embalming Period

US – Funerals typically take place no later than a week or two after the death

Ghana – Due to the extensive preparations required, funerals occur after several months; a year’s delay, though not common, is perfectly acceptable [the body remains at the morgue during this time]

3. The Funeral Dress

US – Black, and the more black the better

Ghana – Black is consistent throughout mourning garb, but red features strongly when the deceased is young (red represents pain) and white is predominant when the deceased is old (celebrating a pure soul’s transition to the afterlife); the family selects a specific fabric print and members/close friends tailor new shirts or dresses for the funeral


4. The Wake/Visitation

US – A day or two before the burial, friends and family visit the immediate family (usually at a funeral home) to express condolences and personal grief; half-open caskets are common; the visitation lasts a scheduled number of hours

Ghana – The wake lasts all night; friends and family visit the family home where the open casket is on display; all night singing and dancing ensues

5. The Service & Burial

US – Usually a very solemn morning church service with emotional tributes read by a few family members; the coffin is displayed in the center aisle; a hearse leads the funerary procession to the cemetery followed by a parade of personal cars

Ghana – Similar service structure, but less grief-stricken and including a congregational procession around the casket (now closed); immediately following the church service is the newer Casket Dance tradition:


Well-wishers follow the hearse to the cemetery for in hired or shared taxis more often than in personal cars

6. The Reception

US – Receptions take place at the family home; light food and refreshments are provided; stortyelling and friendly conversation characterize the occasion

Ghana – those family members planning the reception skip the burial, to prepare the next event of the weekend; copious amounts of beer and local food are served, the music is ear-splittingly loud – as everywhere in Ghana – and Azonto dancing is frequent and spontaneous; attendees are expected to donate monetarily to the family (names & amounts are recorded)

A second, smaller reception is held after church the next day (most funerals are on Saturday), reserved for family and close friends; donations are not solicited on this day, but dancing is.


7. The Vibe

US – Emotional struggle to be a positive support to the chief mourners

Ghana – Stressful family party with societal expectations (plus parting gifts)

Standing on Ceremony

Ghana (and sub-Saharan Africa at large) loves its ceremonies – the elegant traditional dress, the singing and dancing, the honor and status, the gathering of community, and especially the speeches, speeches, speeches.

Freeman reviewing the full-page agenda of speeches

Freeman reviewing the full-page agenda of speeches

Typical ceremonies, including church services, can last several hours. I did not know on Thursday that the ‘Love to Read campaign launch’ was in fact a commissioning ceremony for a new library in Kpedze [ped-jay], but I quickly realized we were not there for a meeting. To be honest, my heart leapt when I learned our actual purpose. The shortage of books in Ghana – especially non-Christian literature – is disheartening at best for an avid reader like myself.


A few development partners, including PoP’s friends DIVOG, have spent the past several weeks building and outfitting a library for the community. A Canadian NGO Links Across Borders, under Professor Sylvia Morrison, has led this project.

Prof. Morrison, Jamaican by birth, was honored in an ‘enstooling ceremony.’ In short, the village chiefs made her a queen of Kpedze – a very high honor.


Traditionally, kings and queens are presented with beads, a staff, and various gifts once they have been seated on their elaborately carved stools. In return, a king or queen is expected to care for the community. The honorary title now extends to particularly influential development partners, like Prof. Morrison, as a symbol of immense gratitude for the work they have performed on behalf of the community. She received the title Mama Agbalényó, or Queen Mother Book is Good. (And yes, even my Ghanaian colleagues thought the name was ridiculous.)

As staff photographer, I passed the majority of the ceremony standing, snapping photos of the fun. But after nearly four hours, I was glad to stop and sit for lunch.


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