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The World that Never Was: Christmas in Africa

by Josh Taylor

As I discussed last post on The World That Never Was, Epcot was to host several countries that never were built.  In continuing our celebration of Christmas in July, we are looking back at another pavilion we have covered and what you may have seen there during the Holidays at Walt Disney World.

A few months back, I covered one of the biggest pavilions the World Showcase at Epcot would have ever had, and Christmas there would have probably been a giant festivity as well.

Due to British colonialism as well as the spread of Christian beliefs throughout Africa, Christmas is a holiday celebrated throughout the continent and in many different ways.  Because of the different customs, there may have been lots to do within the pavilion, but more than likely, Disney may have selected its favorite of the customs to celebrate.

Christmas has always been a time to give and gifts have been a tradition all over the world since the earliest of celebrations. Africa is no different, but due to the vast economic differences, for some, gift-giving focuses on the necessities of life; church clothes for Christmas morning, soaps, school books, or other practical items may be gifts in some African homes.

Food is a major part of the holiday, which makes me jump for joy.  In Africa, depending on the area, traditional Christmas dinners differ. In most of Eastern Africa, goats are the main course which could be a unique and quality meal for anyone around the world, maybe even the World Showcase. South Africa takes the hot summer approach, bringing out the grill and barbecuing along with a mix of plum puddings and mince pie. Along with the dinner in South Africa, party-goers wear paper hats, a tradition passed on from the British colonial days. Within Liberia, rice, beef, and biscuits are on tap and bring another unique meal to the African Christmas celebration we could have had at Epcot. In Zimbabwe, along with the goat meat, you would have had bread, jam, and tea would in a traditional meal, an example of the British rule of the past mixing with the cultures of the African peoples.

Because of the warm temperatures throughout most of Africa, Christmas dinner would typically be set up outside and invitations to neighbors and family members would be common practice, much like a block party. Games are also played in the afternoon amongst friends and a typical fireworks show would end the night.  One can definitely imagine a Biergarten-inspired seating arrangement at such a meal, with travel parties joining one another to share in the celebration.  No doubt Disney cast members would be on hand to lead the guests in games in between courses.

Unlike most of the Americas and Europe, Africa goes without snow during this time of year, however decorative fake snow is hung around local shops and lights are hung from local palm and mango trees as well as homes and shop fronts. Bells hanging from trees, especially in Liberia, are a common site as well as candles hanging down too.  No doubt, if an Africa pavilion had been built, there would be a very distinct decorative style, to reflect some of these very diverse celebratory styles.  Perhaps souvenir bells would be sold in one of the gift shops, for guests to hang on their trees upon returning home.

What do you think about the possible celebrations in the African pavilion? Would this be a destination for your holiday celebrations? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below.