Why do Ethiopians celebrate Christmas on January 7th?

Mereja Media

In Ethiopia, Christmas is yet to come. Ethiopians celebrate Christmas not on December 25 like in other parts of the world but on January 7th because they have a different calendar.

Followers of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church believe January 7th is the day of Jesus’ birth and celebrate it with major religious activities.

While much of the world follows the Gregorian calendar, Ethiopia uses a 365-day calendar. Not only do Ethiopians differ on the Christmas day, they also differ on the year Jesus Christ was born.

Based on the Ethiopian calendar, Christ’s birth is seven years later, making it 2013 in Ethiopia.

Ethiopian Christmas, or Genna as it is called in Ethiopia, is more closely linked with spiritual value and it is not commercial as in other parts of the world.

The celebration of Ethiopian Christmas comes after 45 days of fasting period during which the clergy and devout orthodox Christians dedicate their body and soul for Genna through fasting and prayer.

During this fasting period, faithful of Ethiopian Orthodox Christians Church eat meal late in afternoon.

Genna is celebrated across Ethiopia but chiefly in Lalibela town in the northern Ethiopian highlands that Ethiopian Christians consider it as their Jerusalem.

The churches of Lalibela -13 in all –were carved out of a rock in the 12th century by King Lalibela. The churches of Lalibela is one of Ethiopia’s world heritage sites.

Genna celebrations begin with special church services that begin very late in the evening of Christmas Eve and lasts well into the early morning on Christmas day.

Religious services are marked with singing and chanting as performed by priests and deacons who are dressed in white.

There are traditional foods associated with Genna. Families gather to enjoy a feast of ‘Doro Wat,’ a spicy chicken stew, and Injera- flat bread. Tej (honey wine) may also be served. Many people also enjoy eating meat of sheep, goat and ox on the Christmas and the following day.

Tradition has it that there is game called Genna which is played by males on Christmas day. It is similar to hockey and is believed to have been played by the shepherds on the night Jesus was born.

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