'' Ethiopian Christmas, Genna – International Samaritan

Ethiopian Christmas, Genna

Ethiopian Christmas, known as Genna or Lidet, is celebrated by all Christians. In contrast to Western Christmas that is celebrated on December 25, Ethiopian Christmas lies on January 7. This is because of the unique Ethiopian calendar, derived from the Egyptian Calendar, which creates a 7–8 years difference between the Ethiopian and Gregorian Calendars. This disparity lies in the different date estimations on the Annunciation to the Blessed Virgin Mary that she would conceive by angel Gabriel.

Main ceremonial activities of Genna revolve around local Ethiopian Orthodox churches although Protestants and Catholics also celebrate. Before Christmas, most followers of the Orthodox faith partake a fast, called Tsome Nebiyat or the ‘Fast of the Prophets’ starting from the 25th of November. On the eve of Genna, most people get dressed in a thin white traditional garment called Netela, lined with brightly colored stripes and attend a mass held from 6.00pm until about 3.00am on Christmas Day.

The first Christmas meal is often an early breakfast, the champion of the table often being doro wot, a spicy chicken stew. This is followed by the famous Ethiopian coffee ceremony. It is then customary for people to go to friends and relatives to convey greetings and well-wishes. In the afternoon, especially in the rural parts of Ethiopia, young men partake in a traditional sport called Genna or Yegenna chewata, a game somewhat resembling field hockey. This goes in line with the Ethiopian legend stating that when the shepherds were informed of the birth of the Messiah, they expressed their immense joy by using their staffs to break into a spontaneous game. In the past few years, Western cultures have started to appear in Ethiopia, especially in urban parts, with the introduction of Santa and Christmas tree to the holiday.

A game of Genna
Christmas Mass Congregation in the Historical Lalibela Rock-Hewn Church


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