Holiday market for Ethiopian Christmas

Ethiopians, along with members of the Russian, Greek, Eritrean, and Serbian Orthodox churches, celebrate Christmas Day, also known as “Genna,” on January 7th, while the rest of the world celebrates it on December 25. Christmas in Ethiopia does not feature Santa Claus very much. Instead, in Ethiopia’s rural areas, elders would dress in a distinctive black robe and offer children a slice of baked bread (Defo Dabo). Ethiopians gather to celebrate Christmas with their friends, family, and neighbors, and many of them go to church services. Orthodox Ethiopian Christians abstain from eating meat, fish, milk, and dairy products for 40 days prior to Genna. They will break their fast with a feast that includes dishes with chicken, beef, and lamb on the day of Genna. Before Genna, sheep were commonplace, and you could see people transporting live chickens on the streets and in minibuses. Sheep are being moved into taxi trunks and cars by people pushing, dragging, and carrying them on their shoulders.
One of the Ethiopian Christmas customs is playing a game that resembles hockey called “Ye Ganna Chewata” or Genna games (although, it’s unusual to observe this custom in metropolitan areas). This game has a long history; it is reported that shepherds engaged in a similar activity with their crooks during the time of Christ’s birth. The reason it has a relation to Christmas is that it’s possible that the shepherds who kept watch over their flocks at night during the time the Angel of the Lord appeared to them were engaged in a game like Genna with their crooks. Ethiopians celebrate Christmas by decorating their homes’ floors with grass. Traditional Ethiopian food, such as injera—a circular, spongy flatbread made with the grain teff—and w’et, a stew frequently cooked with the popular red spice berbere or saffron—will also be served.

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