Ethiopian Christmas 2012 | Melkam Gena!


Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-ChiefLast Modified: 01:22 AM EDT, 6 January 2012

ETHIOPIA - At the end of 2011, Jews, Muslims and Christians celebrated major holidays commemorating the end of their religious calendars. Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Christians in the Diaspora celebrate Christmas on the traditional 25th of December. However, all Ethiopians celebrate the holiday on the 7thof January which is the 29th of December on the Ethiopian calendar.

Also known as Liddet, Gena and Qiddus Bale Wold, the holiday actually begins at sundown of the 6th of January with a night long church service. Like Muslims and Jews, the traditional Ethiopian Orthodox Liturgical day always begins at sunrise and ends at sunset of the evening before the calendar date. Lidet is significant from a religious perspective, but does not have the commercial overtones that the festival has in Western countries.

Christmas also signals the end of 40 days of fasting which began on Advent (Sibket, in Amharic) and ends on Christmas Eve with the Feast of Gena. Like Muslims who fast for one month without eating or drinking from sunrise to sundown, Ethiopians also fast, but are allowed to consume vegetarian meals such as lentils, ground split peas, grains, fruit, varieties of vegetable stew accompanied by injera and/or bread. Meat and diary products are only eaten on feasting days i.e. Christmas, Epiphany, Easter and at all other times. Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Christians, Jews and Muslims do not eat pork as it forbidden by their religious beliefs.

The morning of Christmas begins with a spectacular procession. After the mass service, people go home to break the fast by eating chicken, lamb or beef accompanied by Injera and served in beautifully decorated baskets. It is a very festive occasion filled with joy, family, great food and song.  Watch the video below and enjoy!