Christianity is one of the major religions in the multinational country, Tanzania. Like any other country in the world, celebrating Christmas in Tanzania involves the age-old tradition of family get-togethers and decorations. Christmas is a religious festival here in Tanzania more than the theatrical Christmas sales. It usually starts with a midnight mass on Christmas Eve in the Catholic Churches across Tanzania and ends with a joyous dinner with the family. However, in the upbeat cities of Dar es Salaam and Zanzibar, locals spend the evening in musical gatherings and theatre performances.
Best Ways To Spend Christmas In Tanzania
Tanzania has no scarcity of activities during the Christmas season and here is how one can spend Christmas holidays in Tanzania.
1. Go mountain trekking
The idea of hiking up a mountain in the land of the second highest mountain in the African Continent is hard to resist. With so many volcanic mountains and craters in the North of Tanzania, visitors can pick any of the hiking trails including those up Mount Meru and Mount Kilimanjaro.
The weather during December is pleasant with average day temperatures reaching up to 28℃ and nights getting a bit chilly. Except for the rain showers most of the time it makes a wonderful weather to have a date with nature. One needs to be careful though as the paths get slippery with the rain.
Mount Kilimanjaro has an option of choosing between 4 different routes up to the Uhuru Peak. Machame and Mangaru are the shortest paths with more foot traffic. Rongai and Lemosho are longer and less frequented trails. Sleeping huts and food are provided by the tour operators on the way. Mount Meru is smaller and hence easier to climb. Apart from these two, Ngorongoro Crater Highlands has three volcanic craters from which one can view the Lake Natron and the European migratory birds that flock around the Lake. Udzungwa and Usambara Mountain Peaks are also worth trekking. One can cross paths with wildlife while climbing up to the Mountain Peaks.
2. Have a day out in the National Parks
Tanzania is known for wildlife safaris across its 14 different National Parks. Among which, Serengeti National Park, Arusha National Park, Ngorongoro Conservation Area, Selous Game Reserve, and Katavi National Park are the major tourist hotspots. Though the wildebeest migration in Serengeti will be missed in December, one can still spot several animals and birds including the big cats, giraffes and wild dogs.
Many National Parks offer walking tours and boat safaris so one has to make sure to pick the right activity for the maximum exploration of the parks. Some Parks such as Serengeti National Park offers a hot air balloon ride over the area to get a bird’s eye view of the forest, lakes, and craters.
The only downside of visiting the national parks during Christmas is that the prices for the safari and the lodges are sky high as it is the peak season. Thus, it is advisable to book the activity in advance. The wildebeest calving season starts in the month of January and if one plans to spend the New Year as well in Tanzania then it is a must-do activity.
3. Spend the day in the city of Dar es Salaam
Dar es Salaam is the former capital of Tanzania and is economically most important to the Country. It scores high in the population sector and is one of the upbeat cities of Tanzania. Dar es Salaam has revolutionized the retail sector while still promoting the products of the African diaspora. It is the place to be in during the Christmas celebrations in Tanzania.
It is a magical time on the Christmas Day in Tanzania’s St. Joseph Cathedral. This Roman Catholic Church in Dar es Salaam is famous for its architecture and the stained window glass behind the altar. Built in a Gothic style, the Cathedral is home for the Archbishop. Every Christmas Eve, a midnight mass is conducted here. Most of the Churches in Tanzania chant the Holy Hymns in Swahili.
Apart from the religious activities, one can visit the National Museum that displays fossils and statues found in the region and learn about the Tanzanian Culture. Mwenge Woodcarvers Market and the Tingatinga Arts Cooperative Society are nice places to shop from for some authentic Tanzanian Christmas gifts. Dar es Salaam has some good restaurants and nightlife that one can retire to.
4. Soak in the sand and sun at the Zanzibar Islands
The Zanzibar Archipelago in the Indian Ocean lies 80 km away from the Tanzanian coast. It was a major hub for trade during the Arab and British rule. Zanzibar is still famous for its white powdery beaches and turquoise waters. Christmas celebrations in Tanzania can be on the beach with food, music, and dance if one is in Zanzibar. Because the days are warm and sunny most of the time, December is a great time to indulge in water sports. One can go scuba diving or snorkeling or just relax on the beach. Beach soccer, rugby, and volleyball are popular sports around here. Sometime during the early December, Zanzibar even organizes a beach festival.
There is a lot to do on the mainland as well. Filled with great restaurants and shops, Stone Town, the capital of the mainland is a tourist paradise. Stone Town is filled with cobblestone roads giving the visitors a medieval vibe. The Sultan’s Palace, the Museum and the Old Fort are some of the sightseeing places of Zanzibar.
The Islands are famous for their spice plantations and one can buy some spices from the local souks. Nutmeg, pepper, lemongrass, and saffron are the ones to look out for. There are shops like Fahari Zanzibar that sells handmade leather goods and an emporium called The memories of Zanzibar which is a one-stop shop for all the pan-African artifacts.
5. Watch whale sharks in Mafia Island
Mafia Island is a small Island that lies south of the main Zanzibar Islands across the river Rufiji. This Island is scarcely visited by tourists and thus has some unspoiled nature. It is filled with coral reefs and marine wildlife. The Island hosts a Marine National Park and has many beautiful lodges and resorts to provide for the tourists coming to Africa. One can go surfing, snorkeling or scuba diving here. Dolphin watching and whale shark watching is possible only around these Islands. It lies 160 km away from the mainland Zanzibar. Visitors can reach this Island by a short flight from Dar es Salaam that takes about 45 minutes.
Fun Facts About Christmas In Tanzania
1. The festive season of Kwanzaa is not celebrated in Tanzania. It is a popular belief that people of African diaspora across the world celebrate it to honor unity and faith by exchanging gifts. It usually occurs in the week between Christmas and New Year. It turns out that none of the Tanzanians celebrate this festival.
2. Talking about being secular, Muslims living in Tanzania also deck up their homes with Christmas lights.
3. The tradition of gift exchange is pretty low-key in Tanzania. Christmas is more of a religious festival and thus the gifts given to kids are clothing to wear to the mass or a bunch of school books.
4. The Christmas food mainly consists of Pork, lamb, and seafood. Swahili pilau and chapati are traditionally prepared during Christmas.
5. Children indulge in singing traditional Christmas songs which are mostly in the Swahili language. Many children dress themselves as angels and visit each and every house to sing the Christmas carols.
6. The main celebratory activity in Tanzania is attending the Church. The whole of Tanzania can be found in the Church since Christmas Eve and the hymns from the Gospel of Luke and the Gospel of Matthew is recited in Swahili.
For a quiet kind of Christmas away from the claustrophobic crowds of the Christmas markets or malls, enjoy this Christmas in Tanzania close to nature. Get ready for a truckload of adventures and book your holiday in Africa from TravelTriangle right away. Merry Christmas in Tanzania!
Frequently Asked Questions About Christmas In Tanzania
A. People celebrate Christmas in Tanzania by visiting one of the nearby churches for Christmas mass which is followed by a lavish dinner with family and friends.
A. Almost every Christmas meal in Tanzania includes roast beef, turkey, mince pies, yellow rice, vegetables, and a pudding. People first attend the Christmas mass and then gather at one place with friends and family to have a sumptuous meal together.
A. There are a total of 17 public holidays in Tanzania – 8 religious holidays, 3 national holidays, 2 commemorating death anniversaries, and 4 for other national importance.
A. Overall, Tanzania is a safe country to travel to but it recommended not explore the country night or alone.
A. Tanzania is famous for its varied landscapes and is also home to some of the best parks in Africa. People from all around the world come to witness the beauty of this place.
A. Tanzania gives a chance to opt for a safari and explore the wildlife or climb the Kilimanjaro and capture a mind-boggling view. These exhilarating things to do in Tanzania are the reason why everyone should visit this country once in their lifetime.
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