Christianity in Africa began in Egypt in the middle of the first century. Since then, Africa has gone on to become a continent predominantly with Christianity and Islam religions, and indigenous religions have been washed away, almost completely in some places.
Many different denominations of Christianity are followed, some of which recognize Christmas and some of which (such as Sabbath Day Adventists) do not. Nonetheless, Christmas is widely celebrated in Africa as a Christian holiday and a public holiday. The following are ways in which Africans celebrate Christmas.
In many countries, people move from rural areas to urban areas in search of employment and other opportunities. Such is the case in African countries as well. During Christmas, people go back up-country in droves. Cities can often be seen empty during this time, which is quite a stark difference from the regular hustle and bustle. Public transport operators often take advantage of the mass exodus by hiking fares arbitrarily, so some people try to beat this by leaving a week or two (sometimes even a month) earlier than expected.
Yes, Africans are just like the rest of you. Businesses display corporate Christmas spirit by hanging ornaments and bright Christmas lights as soon as November nears the end. It is almost impossible to go to a mall, shopping centre or shop and miss Christmas decorations, including a Christmas tree. The bigger the establishment, the bigger the decorations. Some people decorate their homes too, though this is not as popular—it's more to do with businesses, places of worship and public spaces.
It's not uncommon to see people go shopping for Christmas clothes. What for? To be worn on Christmas Day. It's a tradition in many African countries.
Christmas services are a common thing in Africa like they are in many places. Services can start on Christmas Eve and last overnight and continue to Christmas Day. The churches are decorated. Outside of major cities, services are usually conducted in the local languages of the area as opposed to the official/national language(s) of the country.
Many African communities traditionally fed on plant-based diets and only ate meat during select occasions such as celebrations. Even though there has been a shift in dietary practices amongst Africans with time, this practice has largely remained. Christmas is considered to be a celebration. Therefore, meat is roasted and eaten. Different communities have their own styles of roasting meat. In Kenya, for example, nyama choma is considered a national dish. In Nigeria, there is suya. Whole animals being roasted at a family gathering is a common sight during Christmas. Friends and neighbors are usually invited to join in the festivities.
In South Africa, children leave stockings for Santa outside their doors.
Common Christmas gifts are given in the form of food items (to be used in cooking the Christmas feast) or Christmas clothes. This is especially true when you're visiting someone's home (or going up-country) for Christmas; DO NOT show up empty-handed.
While it is a Halloween tradition, children in Malawi go trick-or-treating during Christmas. Families often stock biscuits and sweets which they hand to the children when they knock. In Liberia and Uganda, children sing Christmas songs for money when you open your door.
In West Africa, masqueraders dance in the streets during Christmas. This can be seen in Sierra Leone, The Gambia and Liberia. They scare children and will not leave until parents give them some money. West Side Carnival, a masquerade carnival in Takoradi, Ghana, brings together hundreds of masked men and women displaying gymnastic skills.