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Customs of Ghana

Marriage and Family

Marriage traditions vary according to ethnic group and religion. A Muslim man may have more than one wife, but this has become less common, especially in urban areas. The groom pays the bride’s family a “bridal token” to indicate responsibility for the new bride.

In Ghana, family structures also vary from one ethnic group to another. Some groups have a matrilineal family organization, in which inheritance is passed down through the wife’s family rather than through the husband’s. In these groups, the primary responsibilities for the family fall to the women. Other groups have male-dominated structures. All elderly members of the family are deeply respected and exercise a great deal of influence on family and community decisions. Ghanaians normally put individual interests and ambitions after those of the family. Funerals are important events and may last as long as three days.


The diet consists mainly of yams, cassava, maize, plantains, and rice. Ghanaians enjoy hot and spicy food, and most of their meals are accompanied by a pepper sauce made with fish, chicken, or other meats. Popular dishes include fufu (a doughlike combination of plantains and cassava or yams), and palm, coconut, or groundnut oil sauces and soups. Ghana also produces a variety of tropical fruits and vegetables. In urban areas, Chinese and Lebanese cuisines are popular. Most larger restaurants serve Western food as well as native Ghanaian food.

Ghanaians usually eat meals with the right hand. A bowl of water and soap are provided at the beginning and end of the meal for people to wash their hands. Food is typically scooped and formed into a ball with the right hand, then dipped into soup or sauce before being eaten.


Greetings vary from area to area according to ethnic tradition. English greetings are common, and a handshake is important when greeting most people. Before beginning a conversation, a general greeting is necessary, such as the Akan Me ma wo akye (“Good morning”), Me ma wo aha (“Good afternoon”), or Me me wa adwo (“Good evening”). Most greetings are in the dominant local language and are followed by questions about one’s health, family welfare, journey, and so forth. Titles and family names are used to address new acquaintances. Friends and family members often use first names. Children refer to any adult who is well known to the family as “aunt” or “uncle.” Similarly, adults of the same age might refer to each other as “brother” or “sister,” regardless of their relationship, and use “auntie” and “uncle” for respected older people.

Visiting plays a key role in everyday life. Friends and relatives visit one another frequently, often unannounced, and appreciate the visits of others. Ghanaians work hard to accommodate their guests. On a visit to someone’s home, it is considered polite to bring at least a small gift for the children. In some homes, visitors are expected to remove their shoes upon entering. Refreshments—at least water—are usually offered to guests, and it is polite to accept. Visitors are generally welcome to stay as long as they wish. It is polite to avoid visiting during mealtimes, but an unexpected guest is normally invited to share the meal. Visiting is most popular on Sundays, and many people like to dress up for the occasion. When a visit is over, guests are accompanied to the bus stop or taxi stand or given a ride home. It is considered impolite to let them leave without an escort.


Soccer is the national sport in Ghana. Other popular sports include field hockey, volleyball, track and field, tennis, and boxing. The people enjoy stage theater, cinema, and cultural presentations. Drumming and dancing are also common forms of entertainment. There is a rich tradition of storytelling, although this has declined somewhat as radio and television have become more popular. Ghana has its own film industry. Various ethnic festivals are celebrated throughout the country.

Holidays and Celebrations

Holidays include New Year's Day (1 January), Independence Day (6 March), Good Friday (the Friday before Easter Sunday), Easter Monday, Labour Day (1 May), Republic Day (1 July), National Farmer's Day (1 December), Christmas Day (25 December), and Boxing Day (26 December). Observance of these official holidays varies by region. In some areas, local ethnic and religious holidays are far more important. Muslims throughout the country observe Ramadan, the Muslim holy month.

Source: Encarta Interactive World Atlas