CHRISTMAS
in
ETHIOPIA


Ethiopia is in the eastern part of Africa, west of Somalia, Djibouti, and Eritrea. Its other neighbors are Kenya and The Sudan.

Ethiopia is one of the oldest Christian nations, having been converted in 330 A.D. Ganna , or Christmas, is celebrated on January 7 in accordance with the calendar of the Coptic Church. Leading up to Christmas is a 40 day period of fasting and spiritual preparation that ends when everyone attends a Christmas morning Mass. It's a very bright ceremony since it is customary to wear white to the Mass.

Following ancient tradition, each person enters the church carrying a candle which they light when they get inside. After circling the inside of the church three times they take their place and stand (there are no seats in Ethiopian churches) for what is usually a three hour service.

Christmas is a religious day and a family day where little thought is given to commercial aspects of the holiday.

The food for Christmas dinner includes injera, a sourdough pancake bread that is easily cooked over an open fire. Doro wat, a spicy chicken stew, is usually the main course. Bits of injera are broken off to scoop up the stew and other parts of the feast.

Gift-giving is an insignificant part of the Christmas celebration however young children often receive clothing and sometimes a small toy.

The season continues through Timket or Epiphany, a three-day holiday that begins two weeks after Christmas to celebrate the baptism of Jesus and St. Michael. On that occasion, children walk in a ceremonial parade wearing crowns and robes while turban-wearing priests carry embroidered umbrellas. Percussive music for the parade is played on the sistrum, a rattle like instrument shaped like a pear. It has small metal disks that make a tinkling sound when shaken.



Music: O Come All Ye Faithful


2002-04 by W. C. Egan




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