Christmas in Ethiopia is celebrated on January 7th, following the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Christian tradition, which uses the Julian calendar for religious holidays. Christmas is known as "Genna" in Ethiopia, and it is a significant and colorful festival. Here's how Christmas is typically celebrated in Ethiopia:
The Ethiopian Orthodox Church observes a 40-day period of fasting known as "Tsome Genna" before Christmas. During this time, participants abstain from meat, dairy, and eggs. The fasting period culminates in a special meal on Christmas Eve.
Christmas Eve is marked by church services that begin in the late evening and continue throughout the night. Many Ethiopians attend these services, often dressed in white traditional clothing, to celebrate the birth of Jesus.
During the Christmas Eve church service, people light candles and walk around the church, singing hymns and chanting prayers. This ceremony, known as the "Genna," symbolizes the arrival of Jesus and the light that he brought into the world.
Many Ethiopians wear their traditional clothing, which includes white robes, during the Christmas celebrations. Some may also wear "shamma," a special type of white cotton wrap.
Ethiopian Christmas celebrations are accompanied by traditional music, drumming, and dancing. People sing hymns and dance in a joyful and spirited manner, often using the "masinko," a traditional single-stringed fiddle.
On Christmas Day, after the long night of church services, families gather to enjoy a special feast. Traditional Ethiopian dishes are prepared, with "injera" (a sourdough flatbread) as the staple food. Dishes may include spicy stews, lentils, and various vegetables. A special dish called "doro wat," a chicken stew, is often prepared for the occasion.
While gift-giving is not as central to Ethiopian Christmas as it is in some other cultures, some families exchange small gifts, particularly among children. The focus of the celebration is more on religious observance and communal gatherings.
Christmas is also a time for Ethiopians to engage in acts of charity and help those in need, following the principle of giving to the less fortunate.
In some parts of Ethiopia, especially among the youth, Christmas Day may include sporting events, games, and other recreational activities.
Ethiopian Christmas is a deeply spiritual and communal celebration that emphasizes religious observance, family, and traditional customs. The vibrant cultural elements, including music and dancing, make it a unique and joyful occasion.
The Ethiopian Christmas known as Ganna is celebrated on January 7th. This celebration takes place in ancient churches carved from solid volcanic rock and also in modern churches that are designed in three concentric circles. Men and boys sit separately from girls and women. Also the choir sings from the outside circle.
People receive candles as they enter the church. After lighting the candles everyone walks around the church three times, then stands throughout the mass, which may last up to three hours.
Food served at Christmas usually includes injera, a sourdough pancake like bread. Injera serves as both plate and fork. Doro wat, a spicy chicken stew might be the main meal. A piece of the injera is used to scoop up the wat. Baskets decorated beautifully are used to serve the wat.
Gift giving is a very small part of Christmas celebration. Children usually receive very simple presents such as clothing.
In Ethiopia Christmas day is January 7, so on Christmas Eve the city is crowded with pilgrims from all parts of the country. They remain outdoors all night, praying and chanting. In the morning, a colorful procession makes its way to a nearby hilltop where a service is held. Three young men march at the head of the crowd, lashing whips from left to right to keep the people in line. Those who worship are fed with bread and wine that has been blessed by priests. After the service is over the rest of the day is spent dancing, playing sport and feasting.