Ethiopian Christians celebrate unique Christmas amid call for national unity

Tuesday January 07 2020

Ethiopian Orthodox worshippers attend a service at the Selassie Church, in the city of Mekelle, Ethiopia, on January 5, 2020. PHOTO | EDUARDO SOTERAS | AFP


As Ethiopian Christians on Tuesday marked unique Christmas celebrations, calls for national unity and togetherness are being echoed by various sections of the Ethiopian society.

Wishing happy Christmas to all Christians, the Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed as well as religious leaders of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, Ethiopian Catholic Church, and the Evangelical Churches Fellowship of Ethiopia, have called for kindness and unity during Genna (Ethiopian Christmas) celebrations.

The nation, which celebrates its New Year on September 11 (or September 12 during a leap year), uses a unique calendar that counts its year seven to eight years behind the Gregorian calendar, in which Christians in the country celebrate Christmas about 10 days after the rest of the world that celebrate Christmas on December 25.

Christmas is a unique celebration in Ethiopia, in which Ethiopian Christians, who take part church services that started on the eve of the main holiday, continue festivities with people enjoying special foods and drinks, as well as visiting and exchanging seasonal greetings with friends, neighbours, and relatives.

It is the custom that at household level, families purchase chicken, sheep, goats, and oxen while preparing special bread locally called "Diffo" in Amharic language, as well as drinks of house-made beer, "Tella" and a honey-wine "Tejj." The coffee ceremony, though it is held at ordinary times at household level, is conducted differently and colourfully during such celebrations.

The Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, in his holiday message to the Horn of Africa nation's Christianity faithful, stressed that "celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ is a holiday of unity, which marks dissolution of separation and enmity."


"It is a celebration that marks the unification of humans and God, heaven and earth, soul and body, humans and angles," Ahmed said, adding "we should celebrate this holiday by eliminating separation and divisions. Natural distinctions do not divide people since they are the beauty marks granted to them from the Creator."

"Ethiopia is our manger of pride. Diverse communities, thoughts, religions, cultures, histories, languages and knowledge have made Ethiopia their common abode," the Ethiopian premier added. Foods served at special holiday occasions, such as Genna (Ethiopian Christmas), include "Doro Wot," a spicy chicken stew, which is eaten with "Injera," as well as a sourdough-risen flatbread traditionally made of teff flour.

Genna or Christmas celebration in Ethiopia is also accompanied by different games, especially by "Yegenna Chewata," a hockey-like game that literary means "Christmas Game."