The importance of Father’s Day in Africa

Although Father’s day is celebrated across the World, the personal celebration will always boil down to the relationship. Shelves of sentimental cards help us capture the thoughts or feelings that we associate with Father’s Day. Some of them won’t even come close to matching our reality and are instantly rejected or accepted. For many, the complex relationship we have with our father figure is so complicated that 2 paragraphs on a card do not even come close to summing up our feelings. Across much of Africa, the celebration will be stronger, deeper and more authentic.

The latest scientific studies trace our earliest common father to an area near modern day Cameroon. In the 209,000 years that have passed, African tradition and customs dictate that fathers be treated with a great deal of esteem, spiritual respect and appreciation for their efforts and the love that they bestow upon us.

That feeling leads to a celebration full of joy on the 3rd Sunday in June (or 23rd June for Ugandans).

Children tend to mark the occasion with tokens of their love, centred on a need to express gratitude for consistent support and guidance. Flowers, cakes, cuff-links and neckties are common gifts – but for many African households, the wrapping will be just as important.

While in the West, a lot of focus is put on ‘letting dad put his feet up to relax’, countries such as Nigeria, Ghana and Zimbabwe have a tradition for picnics, and other outdoor activities – making more positive, communal memories including buffet lunch dances for the whole family to enjoy, such as:

The 3rd Edition of the Father’s Day Buffet Father’s Day Lunch Dance, Ozon Media have scheduled for the Banquet Hall, State House on Sunday 19th June 2016 from 1pm to 6pm. With Ghanian high life stars Akosua Agyepong and Paapa Yankson who will be performing live at the event with the Ghana Immigration Band.

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Although South Africa, Nigeria and Zimbabwe etc may well celebrate Father’s Day in 2016 in a similar way to people from the USA etc, the traditions, values and emotions associated with this auspiciously cheerful day are somewhat different.

That difference can be summerised in an old Ashanti Proverb, which says:

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The common feeling that many Africans have toward Father’s Day in the 21st century is rooted in the culture of the Bantu people who spread across vast areas of Africa around 4,000 years ago. The Bantu held a great deal of esteem and respect for the ‘father figure’. He was the head of the family and had the final decree in all matters that concerned his household.

African customs defines his role as caregiver: the breadwinner and protector. He is the provider, who’s tasked to overcome any/all difficulties to fulfill that role.

African culture celebrates the bravery, love and affection of a father who would not give up and who would continue to strive for the betterment of his wards.

The modern formalisation of Father’s Day happened internationally in the 19th century. The day has been embraced by many Africans wholeheartedly and have added their own unique traditions and values to this custom.

Wherever you are based and whatever your personal beliefs, all of us will give at least one thought to our parents on this day. A fundamental relationship for any child and summed up beautifully in the ancient Nigerian proverb that says:-

“A mother is gold, a father is a mirror”

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Africans believe that a family is a strong knit unit, and the parents are the upholders, pillars and leaders of this unit. They are both equally important, the father as the protector and the mother as the caregiver. In an ideal world, that would be true for everyone – and certainly a cause for celebration.

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