Ethiopians celebrate Christmas 7th January


Ethiopians will be celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ tomorrow Thursday 7th 2023.

Christmas in Ethiopia is called Ganna (or Genna) and is celebrated on January 7th.

Ganna comes 12 days before the Timkat festival, another important holiday.

Like many Orthodox churches around the world, Christmas is on January 7th in Ethiopia.

As the months of the Ethiopian calendar are different, Ganna is on the 29th day of the month of Tahsas.

The Ethiopian Orthodox Church considers January 7th to be the day of Jesus’ birth and is therefore the day for major religious activity in Ethiopia.

Ganna is a strictly religious occasion with its own unique traditions. The giving of gifts is not central to the Ethiopian Christmas tradition, rather the focus is on ritual and ceremony.

The main ceremonial activities take place in and around Ethiopian Orthodox churches, with locals taking part in processions and special services.

Many Ethiopians carry out a 43-day fast in the lead up to Christmas day.

The fast begins on 25th November, a day known as Tsome Nebiyat (Fast of the Prophets), and is held through to January 7th.

Ethiopians eat just one meal a day for 43 days, the meals should be free from meat, dairy, and eggs which are all avoided during periods of fasting.

Locals dress completely in white on Christmas day.

Many people wear a traditional item of clothing called a Netela. 

Clothes worn in a similar way to a shawl, the Netela is a white cotton garment with woven coloured borders.

As Ethiopia’s traditional dress, the Netela is worn on a number of other public holidays and festive occasions.

As Ganna is a very religious occasion on the Ethiopian calendar, Orthodox Christians attend mass on Christmas Eve (January 6th), known in Ethiopia as the gahad of Christmas.

The church service typically begins at around 6 pm and continues through to the early hours of Christmas day.

Chanting and singing are central to the services, many people go from church to church on foot to take part in various services before the break of dawn.

One Ethiopian legend claims that the shepherds of the Christmas story heard about the birth of Jesus, they celebrated the news with a spontaneous game using their wooden staffs that resembled hockey.

For this reason, on Christmas day mainly boys and young men play a game similar to hockey with a curved wooden stick and ball.

The game is called Yágenna Chewata, or genna for short.


Hauwa M.

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