Due to the custom of practicing the Julian calendar in Ethiopia, Ethiopian Christmas or locally called “Genna” or “Lidet” falls a week after the rest of the world, around January 07th mainly.
The day comes after 40 days long fasting among the Ethiopian Orthodox Christians during which period no animal product such as milk, egg and meat will not be consumed and followers will strictly adhere to vegetables and cereals. The 40 days fasting period is to remember the 40 days that Christ was in the wilderness being tempted. Fasting goes from morning till 3:00PM.
On the eve of the celebration, people stay in churches doing their last prayer and around 3 after mid night a big chanting, singing and dancing will be done by colorfully decorated priests and deacons declaring the rise of Jesus. Then the mass goes home to partake the specially made hot spiced chicken called “Doro Wet”. Even those who have not gone to church will get up from their bed to dine with the family members together.
Young boys in the most rural part of the country play a cricket type of play named, “Genna” few weeks before arrival of the festival day making groups per their respective district or villages. Those who won will be awarded with sheep, or goats. Then they slaughter it and invite the villagers to fest together the following days. The morning of the festival day, it is customary for many Ethiopians (including the residents of Addis) to slaughter a big bull and share it to a group of 6, 8, 10 or 12 house hold). This tradition will strengthen the social fabric of the people as they dine on the spot taking a portion of raw meat one feeding the other one. Later people go back home to spend time with families.
Late in the afternoon or evening people start to travel to visit friends and relatives with homemade bread, hot spicy chicken called “Doro Wet” and homemade drinks such as beer or “Tella” and hone made wine or “Tej”. Good number of people in Addis will go with cards and pastry to visit friends and relatives I such holiday times.
The religious celebration of this festival is quite colorful and heart capturing as the deacons and priests are wonderfully seen in their costumes which traces its root to the old Jewish cultures. It is a good chance to see and learn how the Ethiopian Orthodox church is hugely influenced by its Judaic ancestor in its practices. The prime destination to attend the eve celebration of X-mass is the rock-hewn churches of Lalibela but it can be also done at any part of the country.
Interested in celebrating Ethiopian Christamas ? Please check available tour packages