Pongal Festival » Pongal in Africa

Pongal in Africa

The yam festival marks the end of an abundant food-producing harvest. African people have always had festivals at the time of the harvest. In Ghana the Yam Festival (Homowo) lasts three days. The festival begins with a cleansing ceremony to honor family members who have died. Farmers give thanks to the gods who ensure a good harvest. Twins and triplets are honored during this time as a special gift from God.


A yam is large root vegetable that looks like a tube. People often confuse a yam with a sweet potato. Yams come from Africa while sweet potatoes are from Asia. Yams can be stored for 2 months in dark and cool areas. They can also be dried and turned into flour for longer storage. Interestingly, Yams are associated with Thanksgiving in the United States. When you have yams at your Thanksgiving dinner, think about the villagers in Ghana and Nigeria. They too are giving thanks ... especially for this special food.

Yams are an important crop in Ghana. During Homowo, they are taken from the ground and are carried to the village. Then they are blessed by the chief. Special foods made from yams are served. Mashed yams with hard boiled eggs are an important part of the festival. People also eat Kpekpele which is made from corn meal and palm oil.

During homowo people wear a kind of toga made from kente cloth which is brightly colored. The festival ends with a big feast. People dance and sing to the sounds of drums. When a child is born into the society of Ghana, a meal of yam and other ingredients is prepared for relatives and the midwife who delivers the baby

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