Yes, They Know It’s Christmas in Africa

Can we just get a little bit honest here? 

At my home, we’ve been listening to Christmas music pretty much nonstop, much to the delight of my little ones. And, while most of it is enjoyable to listen to, I have come to the conclusion that there are some Really Bad Christmas music. 

And yes, I know that music is subjective and some people will love a song while some people will absolutely loathe the same song. 

But can we come together and admit that “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” is the worst Christmas song ever?

Like. It’s just Bad. Really Bad. Just take a look at some of the lyrics:

There's a world outside your window
And it's a world of dread and fear
Where the only water flowing 
Is the bitter sting of tears
And the Christmas bells that ring there are the clanging chimes of doom
Well tonight thank God it's them instead of you
And there won't be snow in Africa this Christmastime
The greatest gift they'll get this year is life
Where nothing ever grows
No rain nor rivers flow
Do they know it's Christmastime at all?

…you see what I mean? It’s terrible! It reduces the entire continent of Africa into this wasteland in which everybody is suffering and miserable and barely alive. And that’s not true at all! 

Still, even if it were, we’re supposed to thank God it’s them suffering and not us? Um. Tone deaf, anyone?

Plus, it’s just… wrong. In so many ways. Besides the whole premise of the song, Africans are probably very much aware of it being Christmas, maybe even more so than we are. After all, Africa is the home of the most Christians in the world! An estimated 631 million Christians live there.

And so! For today, I would like to feature some African art! 

Madonna and Child Triptych, c. Late 17th century. Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois, United States. Via
Madonna and Child Triptych, c. Late 17th century. Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois, United States.

This might look like modern art… but it’s not! It was made sometime in the 17th century. It was based off an image that is located in the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore. Except the missionaries that painted this one put a decidedly Ethiopian touch to the figures.

And so! Christ is wearing a cowrie-shell necklace. Mary is sitting atop a traditional Ethiopian mat. And everybody is wearing bright and traditional clothes that Ethiopians have long worn. 

All around the icon of the Madonna and Child are other religious images. To the left and the right of the Madonna and Child are the archangels Michael and Gabriel. Directly below the Madonna and Child are the twelve apostles. 

The left side of the Triptych has an image of the Gloriously Risen Christ, along with a depiction of St. George slaying the dragon. Along with another warrior that is miraculously being handed a sword. 

On the right side is the Crucifixion, the Crowning of Thorns, a depiction of some martyrs probably, and a depiction of two popes.

So, yes, Africa is aware that it is Christmastime. Perhaps more than we are, as many of us are drenched in consumerism! 

Africa has long been a continent that has long believed in the glory of God! As a continent, it has a growing population of Christians, and some of the most brilliant modern theologians (Cardinal Sarah is amazing, for instance!) have come from Africa. And it has a beautiful and amazing culture and heritage that is rich in beauty and life.

May we pray for Africa… not from despair, but because of hope that our Lord Jesus Christ gives each and everyone of us. 

Karina Tabone

Karina Tabone is a wife, mother of four, author, blogger, and lover of Christian artwork. She's the author of the Illustrated Rosary series, which pairs every prayer of the Rosary with beautiful religious artwork. She likes also milkshakes, sunshine, and mystery novels. Follow her on Twitter at @illustr_prayer.

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