As Easter approaches our U.S. stores are filled with artificial grass, baskets, and chocolate Easter bunnies. People shop for new clothes and for traditional Easter dinner foods. Churches mark the approach to Easter with Palm Sunday services, Holy week services that walk participants through the last days of Jesus’ life and death, leading to the glorious celebration of Jesus’ resurrection, his triumph over death and the grave. These weeks leading to Easter are a mixture of secular spring celebrations, and reflection upon the central events that define the Christian faith.
What is it like in Ghana? As a country that is predominately Christian, (their government census from 2010, the latest available, lists 71% of the population as Christian), there is wide focus on the same religious events one finds in the U.S. Palm Sunday is widely celebrated with processions of palm and handkerchief waving worshippers in the streets. God Friday church services command good attendance as worshippers lay down their sins at the cross of Christ. Easter results in joyous music, dancing, and shouts of “Alleluia.” Easter Monday is a state holiday, and a day for families to enjoy time together picnicking or traveling to touristy attractions. Special foods are prepared and shared within the family.
There is a secular side to Easter in Ghana as well, and this facet is growing. In the Eastern Region some tribal peoples see Easter as time of returning home for celebration with family. For some the secularization of the holiday means it is a time for beach binging and merry making. ModernGhana.com reports, “The Kwahu Mountains now divert attention from church activities to the National Paragliding Festival site. The paragliding festival has become the center of attraction for Easter festivities as people across the globe troop to the Kwahu Mountains to participate or observe the extraordinary event.”
As missioners who work in Ghana, we encourage our friends there to follow in the steps of Jesus, going with him to his death, and into the promise of new and resurrected life. Making merry along the way is fine, but we dare not let that replace true Easter joy which is found in celebrating Jesus defeating death, and rising to new life, a life to which we are all invited.
The Rev. Becki Neumann