Ethiopian Christmas Jan 7, 2014 | Melkam Gena!


Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-ChiefLast Modified: 20:00 p.m. DST, 04 January 2014

Christianity in PalestineADDIS ABBA, Ethiopia - Towards the end of each year, Jews, Muslims, and Christians begin to prepare for their holiday seasons.

During the last week of November until the beginning of the New Year on the Gregorian calendar, Christian families across the world prepare for cultural, regional, and national holidays that honor the best ideals of who we seek to be as humans.

In America, the end of the year is consumed with activities focused on preparing for holidays such as Thanksgiving, Christmas, and finally New Year’s Eve, which concludes the annual calendar of major festivals.

Throughout the calendar year, running sometimes in synch, and at other times not close, are the major Muslim and Jewish holidays which are celebrated in accordance with the lunar calendar.

The Ethiopian calendar, also called the Ge'ez calendar, is the principal calendar used in Ethiopia and also serves as the liturgical calendar for Christians in Eritrea and Ethiopia belonging to the Orthodox Tewahedo churches, Eastern Catholic Church and Lutheran Orthodox Church.

It is a sidereal calendar based on the older Alexandrian or Coptic calendar, which in turn derives from the Egyptian calendar. A seven- to eight-year gap is created by the difference between the calendars results in an alternate calculation of the date of the Annunciation of Jesus. (Source: Wikipedia)

Thus, this year, the Ethiopian Christmas will be celebrated on January 7, 2014 on the Gregorian calendar. The Ethiopian holiday is not known as Christmas, but Lidet. Other names include Gena and Qiddus Bale Wold. As part of the tradition of celebrating the birth of Jesus, Ethiopian tradition holds that one of the Wise Men who visited Jesus came from Ethiopia.

Christmas Eve features prominently in Ethiopian celebration, just as it does with all followers of Jesus. One difference is that Ethiopians fast on the day before Christmas, and then at dawn on the morning of Gena, the Ethiopian name for the holiday; people arise and dress in white.

Women wear dresses called Habesha Gemis, while the men complete their attire with a type of shawl called Netela, worn by both men and women. Then the entire family attends the early morning mass that starts at 4.00 a.m and officially commences the days events.

Following the mass, families go home to celebrate the holiday and participate in traditional festivities to break the fast. Similar to the American holiday, the Ethiopian Christmas is filled with happiness, the presence of family, food, and songs. But most of all, it is a time to reflect and thank God for all that He has done for us and will through His beneficent kindness, continue to do for us throughout the coming year.

Melkam Gena!

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