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Ethiopian Christmas

December 31, 2016 Destination Global No Comments Email Email

Christmas is an annual universal festival celebrated with lot of fervor and enthusiasm around the world.

People living across the equator especially in the Southern and Northern Hemisphere like Australia, Africa etc experience Christmas in summers. However white Christmas is observed in North America, Antarctica and Eurasia.

Ethiopia is one such destination where Christmas is celebrated every year on the 7th of January just like the European Christmas is always celebrated on December 25 every year, since Ethiopians follow the ancient Julian calendar.

Some of the traditions observed during Christmas Day in Ethiopia are:

  • The Ethiopian Orthodox Church’s celebration of Christ’s birth is called Ganna
  • Ethiopians don a traditional shamma, a thin, white cotton wrap with brightly colored stripes across the ends
  • The priests are dressed in turbans and red and white robes as they carry beautifully embroidered fringed umbrellas
  • The churches in Ethiopia echo the shape of the houses. In many parts of the country there are ancient churches carved out of solid volcanic rock. Modern churches are built in three concentric circles
  • In a modern church, the choir assembles in the outer circle. Each person entering the church is given a candle. The congregation walks around the church three times in a solemn procession, holding the flickering candles
  • They gather in the second circle to stand throughout the long mass, with the men and boys separated from the women and girls. The center circle is the holiest space in the church, where the priest serves Holy Communion
  • The men and boys play a game that is also called ganna. It is somewhat like hockey,  played with a curved stick and a round wooden ball
  • The foods enjoyed during the Christmas season include wat, a thick, spicy stew of meat, vegetables, and sometimes eggs as well. The wat is served from a beautifully decorated watertight basket onto a “plate” of  injera, which is flat sourdough bread. Pieces of injera are used as an edible spoon to scoop up the wat
  • Ganna is not an occasion for giving gifts in Ethiopia. If a child receives any gift at all, it is usually a small gift of clothing. Religious observances, feasting, and games are the focus of the season
  • Twelve days after Ganna, on January 19, Ethiopians begin the three-day celebration called Timkat, which commemorates the baptism of Christ

Ethiopian Christmas is celebrated at the Ethiopian Cultural Center in New Delhi each year where they showcase Ethiopian art, music, dance and it also boasts about being the only outlet in India that serves Ethiopian cuisine.

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