Culture Food

9 Delicious Traditional Dishes Ugandans Eat Over Christmas

Uganda Christmas food
Written by Jesca

Uganda Christmas food is always lined up with delicious traditional dishes. Christmas is a festive time of the year, and in Uganda, the traditional feast is a crucial part of the celebrations. The Christmas meal typically features roasted meats or stew, vegetables, and an array of tasty side dishes. One of the most popular dishes is matooke, rice, kalo and ground nuts.

Other traditional side dishes mainly served for breakfast include cassava, a root vegetable that’s boiled or fried; sweet potatoes; chapati (flatbread); mandazi (sweet deep-fried bread) and uh more. Each family typically prepares their feast, which is shared with relatives and friends. Whether Ugandan or not, these mouth-watering dishes will surely get you into the Christmas spirit!

How Do They Celebrate Christmas in Uganda?

On Christmas Eve, church choirs, especially in the villages, sing Christmas carols, moving from house to house. In my village in Ntungamo district, Western Uganda, we call the singers night angels. These beautiful melodies put the whole village in the Christmas mood: “behold, the king is born!”

Christmas carols and church bells can be heard all across the country. Churches are well-lit with Christmas lights and all kinds of decorations. The rural areas where there is no electricity do their best to make the event colourful in their own special way.

Family members wake up as early as 6 am to prepare lunch. Women and the young girls peel and prepare matooke, and put it on the stove. Move on to grilling the chicken or meat for the special feast. Prepare everything on the menu, leave it on the stove and prepare for church. Another group goes to make chapati, samosa, or any other escort for breakfast. Breakfast is served, then head to church.

On the morning of Sekukkulu, the church is filled to capacity; even people who never go to church attend on this day. Most people in Uganda practice the tradition of buying Christmas clothes, especially women and children, to show off their new dresses. An incredible feast follows the church service.

How Does Uganda Say Merry Christmas?

As Ugandans do, Christmas is a beautiful example of the ‘true spirit of the holiday. Christmas in central Uganda is called Sekukkulu, and Nohiri in western Uganda. In Uganda, the traditional way to say “Merry Christmas” is Sekukkulu Enungi” or, “Kulika Sekukkulu!”. These phrases are used to wish someone joy and peace during the holiday season and to congratulate him or her for reaching another Christmas in peace.

Ugandan Christmas Food

After a long year of working hard, Ugandans take one week of rest and travel to their home village. They bring city treats like bread, sugar, cooking oil, and phone as gifts, and in return, they’re given mountains of fruit and fresh chicken meals and get to hear family stories from the past year.

On Christmas Eve, families begin food preparation. Slaughtering of cows, goats, chicken, and so much more. In our tradition, the elder women prepare ‘obushera’, our traditional non-alcoholic drink, for serving visitors on Christmas. Christmas is always a special day with various dishes on the menu, so the entire family helps with lunch preparations.

Chapati For Breakfast

Uganda Christmas food

Chapati is a favorite dish best for breakfast. Photo/ pinterest.

Christmas breakfast in Uganda usually consists of milk tea/black tea, escorted by bread, mandazi, fried cassava, samosa, or Chapatis. This is a type of flatbread that is made from wheat flour and water. The dough is kneaded and rolled into thin circles before being cooked over an open flame. If you have a sweet tooth, mandazi or donat will hit the spot. These are fried bread that is sweetened with milk and sugar and shaped into circles.

A glass of juice or fruit ought to be part of this meal. Although people tend to eat heavier lunches during celebrations, it’s crucial to have a breakfast that is both light and balanced.

Lunch/Dinner

Forget about the carb rule; there’s no need to worry about sticking to healthy eating habits on this holiday. The feast includes a little bit of everything: matooke (steamed banana), sweet /Irish potatoes, cassava, Kalo (pounded millet), rice, and pumpkin. For those who can afford it, beef, goat, or chicken dishes may also be available. And for our vegetarian friends, don’t worry- there will be g.nut sauce-, beans-, and sautéed greens options too.

Cassava Bread

Christmas feast in some parts would be complete without some cassava bread – a delicious treat made from cassava flour, eggs, butter, and sugar. So if you’re ever in Uganda during the holidays, sample some of these delicious Ugandan Christmas foods!

Matooke

Uganda Christmas food

A family preparing Matooke. Photo/
The Campus Times.

Matooke is a type of green banana that is steamed and then mashed. This dish is often served with a stew or curry and can also be eaten as a snack.

Chicken

Chicken stew

Chicken stew. Photo/YouTube.

Chicken is a popular option in Uganda and is often served as part of the Christmas feast. Local chicken is cooked with stew or in Luwombo, whereas the exotic ones are best fried, and roasted.

Beef and Goat

Men slaughtering a goat to feast

Men slaughtering a goat to feast. Photo/
Global Press Journal.

Beef and goat meat is another popular choice for Christmas in Uganda. Most families slaughter goats or cows on Christmas eve for feasting. Traditionally, beef is cooked in a stew with vegetables and spices for added flavour. Roasted goats are very flavorful and juicy. They marinate the goats meat in a mixture of spices before roasting it over an open fire.

Luwombo

Chicken Luwombo.

Chicken Luwombo. Photo/Daily Monitor.

Luwombo is a special meal in the Ganda culture of the Buganda kingdom. They make this food by wrapping meat, fish, and chicken in banana leaves together with groundnut paste. It takes time to prepare, but it’s worth the taste. They serve Luwombo with steamed matooke. It is usually a special meal during traditional ceremonies in Buganda culture and definitely cannot be a Christmas feast without Luwombo.

Akaro/ Karo

Akaro is a Ugandan staple food prepared by mixing millet flour with boiling water until it forms a thick even substance. Some cultures mix the millet with cassava flour to add the taste. In some cultures, like banyankole, it’s served in millet baskets and on special days such as Christmas.

Eshabwe

Eshabwe is a delicacy in the Western Region, especially Ankole. In western Uganda, a thick white sauce is made from rock salt and mature ghee. Elder ladies prepare Eshabwe on Christmas Eve and keep it in clean containers. Eshabwe goes well with akaro/kalo.

Pilao Rice or Boiled Rice

Rice is a favourite dish in Uganda. On Christmas, some families prefer it boiled white or fried to brown, or pilau. To prepare pilau, Finely slice onions and garlic. Put a generous amount of cooking oil in your pan; when hot, add the onions and slowly brown it (almost burned).

Dice the tomato and small pieces of meat and add them to the rice. Put the water and boil until ready.

Dinner is just like lunch – it should have carbohydrates, proteins, fat, fruits, and vegetables. Eat dinner early (before 8 pm), so your body has time to digest the food before you go to bed. Alcohol can make people feel sleepy and lower their inhibitions, which may cause them to make poor decisions or act impulsively. So if you’re going to drink on Christmas Day, start after dinner rather than drinking on an empty stomach.

Drinking lots of water or juice throughout the day is a good idea because it allows your body to flush out toxins properly. After consuming more food and drinks than usual, working out is an ideal way to burn off that extra energy.

After feasting, most Ugandans like to crown the day by attending one of the many Christmas events in their neighbourhoods. Among these are church activities, such as Christmas carols and nativity plays. Some people may attend football matches.

Where Can I Spend Christmas in Uganda?

There are numerous places to spend Christmas in Uganda. Kampala is the capital and largest city in the country, and its pleasant climate makes it a great place to experience holiday cheer. Other popular destinations include Queen Elizabeth National Park, Murchison Falls National Park, Lake Mburo National Park, and Bwindi Impenetrable Forest.

All these areas offer unique and beautiful views to explore, perfect for a festive holiday. For a truly unforgettable Christmas experience, many people head to the Rwenzori Mountains near the border with Congo – where you can look out over stunning mountain peaks and snow-capped volcanoes. No matter where you are in Uganda, there is sure to be a festive atmosphere to enjoy.

What are Some Unique Christmas Traditions in Uganda?

There is a particular emphasis on giving and gratitude during Ugandan Christmas celebrations. It is customary for each family member to give small gifts or money to those who have been kind throughout the year, such as teachers, neighbours, and other helpers. People also give donations to their churches and other religious institutions.

About the author

Jesca

Besigye is a Ugandan writer and a teacher by profession. She loves adventure and travelling that's why she loves writing travel blogs.

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