Ethiopia is one of the ancient countries of the world. Till today, the people in Ethiopia follow ancient Julian calendar. Even Christmas is celebrated as per the calendar and falls on 7th January every year. Here, Christmas is celebrated in the name of Ganna. People visit Church on this auspicious occasion. The occasion is celebrated on a grand style, in both ancient and modern churches. While attending Church, males and females sit separately. In modern churches of Ethiopia, the choir gets together in the outer circle. Every person who enters into the Church is given a candle. The assembled people hold the flickering candles and walk around the Church three times in a solemn procession. After the procession, they gather in a second circle, to stand for the long mass. They stay for the mass as long as three hours. The holiest space in the Church is the center circle wherein the priest serves Holy Communion. Read on to explore more about Ethiopian Christmas traditions.
Christmas Celebrations In Ethiopia
People in Ethiopia observe fasting on the day before Ganna. At dawn, they dress up in white costume. Most of them wear the traditional shamma, which is a thin white strap bearing bright colored stripes across the ends. The style of wearing sham is much similar to wearing the toga. However, the Ethiopians living in city wear white Western garb. Around 4 am on the next day, people congregate for the early mass. At night, they remain outdoors and keep chanting and praying throughout. In the morning time, one can see a colorful procession proceeding from the city to the nearby hilltop. The procession is led by three young men with whips, who make sure that everyone is following in a line.
After the procession reaches the hilltop, the prayers are conducted and then the priests bless the bread and wine. Then, there is the custom of distribution of the blessed bread and wine among the people present in the procession. Like any other country, Ethiopia also has traditional dishes of its own. Some of the conventional dishes prepared and relished on this auspicious occasion are Injera and a spicy chicken stew. Injera is a sourdough pancake and it looks like bread. It is served along with Doro Wat. The chicken stew is served in ornamental baskets, which is a specialty of the place. Unlike most parts of the world, people in Ethiopia do not have gift exchange as an integral part of the festival. However, children receive clothes in the festival, which is their gift for the occasion.
Ethiopian people dance and play games on Christmas. The traditional game played by the men is known as Ganna. This game is more or less like hockey and is played with a curved stick and a round wooden ball. Grand feast is also organized on the day, with the traditional cuisines. All the near and dear ones are invited to the feast. The festival is an ideal occasion for family and friends to get together and spend memorable time with each other. On January 19 i.e. twelve days after Ganna, a three-day celebration is observed in Ethiopia, under the name Timkat. Meant for commemorating the baptism of Christ, it involves a procession of children to the church, wearing the crowns and robes of the church youth group they belong to. On the other hand, the adults wear shamma and the priests are dressed up in red and white robes.