Christmas Day is a public holiday in Angola every 25 December as Christians and other celebrate this observance together with people all around the world.
Many Angolan Christians attend church on Christmas Eve to await the break of Christmas morning. Many also go to church on 25 December itself. The biggest Christmas celebrations are in Luanda and other major cities, but people celebrate Christmas countrywide.
Many save all year to afford to buy food and gifts for Christmas. The centrepiece of the Christmas feast is the bolo rei, which means “king cake” and is traditional Portuguese Christmas cake. But cold fish with vegetables, rice, turkey, chicken, goat, beef, and wine are all also a usual part of the Christmas cuisine.
Is Christmas Day a Public Holiday?
Christmas Day is a public holiday. It is a day off for the general population, and schools and most businesses are closed.
Angolans only began celebrating Christmas after the arrival of Christian Missionaries in the 15th century. Presently, after more than 500 years of Christianity and colonization followed by over 30 years of independence, the celebration of Christmas has undergone various influences – from traditional African culture, popular Catholic traditions from the previous Portuguese colonization and from other Christian sects as well as secularism.
Christmas for most of the people in the countryside is the most-awaited feast; the preparation is done both materially and spiritually. It’s always preceded by spiritual exercises and pilgrimages to the their local churches for the ‘ceia’; church service. Materially, families usually save some money during the whole year to buy special foods for this feast – rice, pasta and other industrialized foods. In agricultural communities, some animals are reared to be slaughtered at Christmas – such as cows, goats, and chickens.
In the cities, Christmas preparations are more organized and better structured. Spiritually it is notable in the participation of the faithful in retreats and preparation for the baptism of children. More zealous Christians go to church services at midnight on December 24th and on Christmas Day. Those who miss the chance to go to church, either because of work or perhaps over-indulgence in festivities, end up viewing the live telecast church services on the National Television Channel.
Since Christmas is also an occasion for a family feast, it is common to find homes filled with parents and grandparents, children and grand-children. Like in the countryside, unexpected guests are most welcome. There is room for everybody; this comes from the deep-rooted African tradition of hospitality.
At the ceia church service at midnight on December 24th, urban Angolan families eat cozido de bacalhau, or cooked cold fish, with many vegetables. They also eat turkey with rice and drink table wine and other drinks. After the ceia they exchange gifts and eat handmade cakes and dried fruits, including grapes with which everybody makes wishes.
Specifically, at Christmas urban Angolans celebrate the end of the year and the coming New Year with an Angolan Christmas tradition of the eating of ‘bolo-rei’(translated ‘king-cake’); a sweet, Portuguese cake. (from La Salette website)