Christmas may be months away, but for millions of followers of central Africa's Kimbanguist church, yesterday (25 May) was Christmas Day.

Kimbanguist church Congo Christmas Day
An orchestra made up of Kimbanguist believers play music during celebrations of Christmas Day on 25 May 2017 in Nkamba, Democratic Republic of the CongoJohn Wessels/AFP

Kimbanguism is a religious movement founded by Simon Kimbangu in 1921 in what was then the Belgian Congo – the Democratic Republic of the Congo today. The church has around five million believers and has its headquarters in Nkamba.

Kimbangu's second son, Father Dialungana Kiangani Paul Salomon, is believed to be the second coming of Christ, and as he was born on 25 May 1916, Christmas Day is celebrated on this date. The current leader of the church is Kimbangu's grandson Father Simon Kimbangu Kiangani. The church is Baptist in origins, and its followers embrace puritan values, rejecting alcohol, tobacco, and dancing. AFP photographer John Wessels travelled to Nkamba to document Christmas in May.

Kimbanguist church Congo Christmas Day
Kimbanguist believers wait in front of the Nkamba Temple during Christmas celebrationsJohn Wessels/AFP
Kimbanguist church Congo Christmas Day
Kimbanguist believers hold bowls of money, meant as an offering to the Holy Spirit, Simon Kimbangu KianganiJohn Wessels/AFP
Kimbanguist church Congo Christmas Day
Simon Kimbangu Kiangani Nkamba, son of Dialungana Kiangani Salomon and believed to be The Holy Spirit, makes his way to the Nkamba TempleJohn Wessels/AFP
Kimbanguist church Congo Christmas Day
Kimbanguist faithful sit inside the Nkamba Temple during Christmas celebrationsJohn Wessels/AFP
Kimbanguist church Congo Christmas Day
Women pray inside the Nkamba Temple, during Christmas celebrationsJohn Wessels/AFP
Kimbanguist church Congo Christmas Day
A choir of Kimbanguist believers attends the Christmas celebrationsJohn Wessels/AFP
Kimbanguist church Congo Christmas Day
Kimbanguist blievers lift a cow chosen as an offering to Simon Kimbangu Kiangani NkambaJohn Wessels/AFP
Kimbanguist church Congo Christmas Day
A member of the Kimbanguist faith walks past a poster of Dialungana Kiangani Salomon, born on 25 May 1916 and believed to be the second coming of ChristJohn Wessels/AFP
Kimbanguist church Congo Christmas Day
A Kimbanguist congregation rejoices during Christmas celebrationsJohn Wessels/AFP
Kimbanguist church Congo Christmas Day
A marching band plays music during Kimbanguist Christmas festivitiesJohn Wessels/AFP