High cost of living threatens Ethiopian meat-sharing tradition

Tuesday April 18 2023
EthiopiaN herder

A shepherd on April 16, 2023 sells his livestock at a market during the festivities of the Ethiopian Easter in Addis Ababa. PHOTO | AMANUEL SILESHI | AFP


As this year Ethiopian Orthodox Easter rolled around, Lulu Cherent along with his two long-time friends went to Shegole bull market in the northern part of Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital, to buy one bull to celebrate the most important holiday Sunday among Orthodox followers.

However, Cherent was surprised to find out that the 56,000 Ethiopian birrs (about $1,037) he collected from his eight neighbours was not enough to buy a big ox to use for ‘Kircha’," a tradition of sharing the meat of a bull among buyers during holiday celebrations. 

"I remember several years ago, I and seven of my neighbours would put money together and buy an ox for 8,000 birrs to share it as a ‘Kircha’ and not just a small one but a big ox whose meat was consumed among eight families for at least a month," Cherenet told Xinhua in a recent interview.

"Now, I saw that a rapid increase in the price of a bull compared to last Ethiopian Christmas which is in January," he added.

Ethiopia Orthodox

Ethiopian Orthodox devotees on April 16, 2023 pray during the celebration of Easter at Bole Medhanialem church in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. PHOTO | AMANUEL SILESHI | AFP

Cherent was worried about the challenge that the increasing cost of living has caused on the tradition of ‘Kircha’ in the East African nation. For him, it was very difficult to go back home without buying a bull and breaking the tradition of ‘Kircha’. So, he returned home to add some money and bought a big-sized bull at a price of 64,000 birrs to the delight of his friends and children to have a joyful Easter celebration. 


"Failing to conduct a ‘Kircha’ tradition is so disappointing for me whatever the reason might be," Cherenet said noting that it would have been very hard for him and others to celebrate Easter without eating meat.

Sisay Fiseha who is another Orthodox follower in Addis Ababa, said that ‘Kircha’ is a communal asset that should be nurtured as it promotes unity and friendship in their neighbourhood.

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"The tradition is fading away as many ‘Kircha’ groups have dissolved through time due to increasing prices of the bull," Fiseha said.

Before the Kircha ceremony takes place, a butcher along with the participants would let the bull fall down by its right side and an elder is entitled to slaughter the bull. Members of the ‘Kircha’ group will then partake in the ceremony in which they eat pieces of raw meat as the butcher apportions the meat in front of members of the ‘Kircha’ group. A bull's meat can be shared among four, six or eight participants depending on their purchasing capacity.

‘Kircha’ diminishing

Tariku Alemu who has worked as a butcher for the last eight years, told Xinhua that bulls coming from the Jirru and Harar areas to the north and east of Addis Ababa are larger in size and sold at higher prices. Alemu said the tradition of ‘Kircha’ is diminishing as years pass by and the price of a bull is rising through time, becoming unaffordable for even middle-income earning communities. 

Ethiopian Easter, locally called ‘Fasika’, is referred to as the most important festival and it comes after 55 days of fasting among faithful Orthodox believers. Orthodox Christians partake in the religious 55-day fasting, abstaining from eating meat and animal products. 

After attending a church service beginning from Thursday to Saturday night, the faithful break their fasting at 3 am Sunday when the Doro Wat, a spicy chicken stew, is first served. Then the meat of a bull will be served as ‘Kitfo’, which means fine meat. That will be followed by a coffee ceremony and a feast with families and neighbours serving each other traditional food.