Advent 2020


Celebrating Christmas in Ethiopia

Among the festivals unique and special to Ethiopia is Genna – the Ethiopian Christmas. As per the Ethiopian calendar, Genna is celebrated on 7 January. As part of the tradition, a few weeks beforehand, teams of boys prepare themselves for Ye Genna Chewata, which is an Ethiopian traditional indigenous game similar to field hockey. It is played particularly during the Christmas season between teams of ten, wearing traditional clothes. According to legend, the game started from the joy of shepherds who, when they heard of the birth of Jesus Christ, jumped up and threw and kicked everything that they found around them with their wooden sticks.

Growing up as a child from a Christian family, Christmas was my favorite festival. On the eve of Genna, Christians gather at churches for the mass church services. My Sunday school friends and I would await the day eagerly, having been preparing for months to perform in front of the congregation. We memorized Bible verses and practiced the scene of the birth of Jesus and the visit of the three wise men in a theatrical form. On the eve, we would get to perform on the big stage in front of our families – so excited. The church was filled with praises, songs, worship and laughter.  

On the actual day, we would wake up in the morning, wear our new white traditional clothes, ye habesha libs, and head off to visit our relatives. Excitement and joy would be in the air as we met our grannies, aunts, uncles and cousins – and it would be time to have a big feast of traditional dishes together. Most importantly, it was the perfect time to have the well-known coffee ceremony that makes the day even more vibrant. 

Not only the day, but the season is filled with love, sharing, laughing and cherished memories for all.

By Tsion Alemseged, Tearfund’s Regional Policy Officer for East and Central Africa.