As family and friends hang out at the beach in New Zealand, sipping on Monteith’s Summer Ale and nibbling on fresh berries, in Ghana I’ll be eating spiced rice and Danish biscuits.

This will be my third Christmas in this West African nation. It’s a religious country, so church will play a big part of the holidays. I’ll be bypassing this aspect myself – but what I do look forward to are masked children and adults prowling around traffic lights and suburban streets, being creepy, on purpose – they’re called kakamotobi.

Elaborate, expensive costumes, large masks, headwear, and tinsel are worn as part of a tradition that originated in a coastal area of Ghana almost a century ago, first as a New Year festival to satirise colonial life.

My partner John Ocran bristles and side eyes these guys. When he was a kid in Ghana, he was terrified of the kakamotobi – they freaked him out.

I live in Accra, Ghana’s capital, and with the exception of John’s costumed friends, the lead up to Christmas is much like I’ve seen in New Zealand. Supermarkets are full of hampers and garish decorations, offices are gearing up for their end-ofyear parties. People travel home from wherever they are in the world.

Bars are full of people reconnecting after not seeing each other since the previous Christmas. There are Santas in the malls and churches ramp up their activities more than usual. As we edge closer to the 25th, there will be all-night church services as well as carol nights in schools.

When I ask friends and family in Accra how they celebrate Christmas, some say they don’t bother so much now – it was a bigger deal when they were younger, they say.

John’s mother Sheila tells me that back in the day people would eat chicken, jollof rice (an adored, aromatic dish) cakes and soft drinks. They were a treat then, but as taste and lifestyles change, they have wormed their way into being part of the daily diet.

Another told me chips (made locally, from flour), TV stations playing the Home Alone movies, tins of Danish biscuits and explosive fireworks define Christmas for them. That, and the kakamotobi, lurking around corners, ready to give kids nightmares.