Ethiopian Christmas traditions: Festivities, Spirit & Foods

Ethiopia is one of Africa's oldest countries. Ethiopia still observes the ancient Julian calendar, hence Christmas is celebrated on January 7. Ganna is the Ethiopian Orthodox Church's commemoration of Christ's birth. It is a day when many families go to church.

Unlike the Christmas you're used to, the Ethiopian Christmas version lacks tangled tinsel, red bobble hats, and flashing, multicolored lights interwoven amid fir branches.

Let’s discover the Ethiopian Christmas with Ethiopia Immigration Services in the detailed article below!

1. What is Ethiopian Christmas?

The Ethiopian Christmas day is also called Ganna, the day of Jesus' birth, alongside the Russian, Greek, Eritrean, and Serbian Orthodox Church. It is also celebrated by the Protestant and Catholic denomination of the country.

When is Ethiopian Christmas?

Ethiopian Christmas is celebrated on January 7th, according to the Gregorian calendar, or on the 29th of Tahsas, according to the Ethiopian calendar.

In the run-up to Christmas, followers are supposed to observe Tsome Nebiyat, or the "Fast of the Prophets," a 43-day fast.

Beginning on November 25th, the fast is thought to purify the body of sin, allowing those who participate in cleansing the spirit in preparation for the birth of their saviour, Jesus Christ.

Why do Ethiopians celebrate Christmas on January 7th?

Christmas is celebrated on January 7th in Ethiopia, as in many Orthodox churches worldwide. Because Ethiopian calendar months fluctuate, Ganna is on the 29th day of Tahsas. The Ethiopian Orthodox Church believes January 7th to be Jesus' birthday and hence the day for considerable religious activities in Ethiopia.

Fortunately, January is one of the finest months to visit Ethiopia since the temperature is mild with minimal rain. During this time, followers are required to refrain from all non-vegan goods and psychoactive substances, including alcohol, and to eat only one meal each day.

When is Ethiopian Christmas

When is Ethiopian Christmas

2. How Do They Celebrate Ethiopian Christmas traditions?

Ganna is a religious event with distinct traditions. The exchanging of presents is not fundamental to the Ethiopian Christmas celebration; ritual and ceremony take precedence instead.

The spirit of the celebration

Different from the consumerist West, Ethiopians only exchange presents occasionally. The celebrations are about a shared experience and a dedication to religion. Christmas in Ethiopia is unlike any other, harkening back to a time long forgotten in the West.

Lalibela is the ideal site to enjoy Ethiopian Christmas. Pilgrims in white robes come to the rock-hewn churches. Attending a liturgy in the deep, subterranean corridors of those old cathedrals in the dead of night is a memorable moment during your trip.

The Festivities

A Netela, a traditional thin, white cotton gown tapered with vividly colored stripes on either end, is worn during the festivities. On Christmas Eve or the gahad of Christmas, Ethiopians attend nightly mass, which usually begins at 6 p.m. and ends at 3 a.m.

Within the typically circular cathedrals, worshippers form a lengthy looping procession around the perimeter of the church, accompanied by a heavenly choir and a variety of traditional instruments such as a sistrum, and a tambourine-shaped drum. The crowd is handed lights at this time, and they follow the priest around the church as he bestows blessings for the year on everyone he passes.

Ethiopian Christmas Food

The importance of food is one commonality between Christmas in Ethiopia and other parts of the world. The 43-day fast is broken with a small supper at sunrise on January 7th. Later in the day, a Doro Wat, a spicy stew with beef and vegetables that is occasionally topped with an egg, is consumed. Ethiopian flatbreads, injera, are used to scoop up and devour the stew. The same meal is served at Ethiopia's Timkat festival, which is also an important day on the Ethiopian calendar.

Tej, an Ethiopian honey wine, is served with dinner.

Traditional food is served during Christmas

Traditional food is served during Christmas

What do Ethiopians dress on Christmas day?

On Ethiopian Christmas Day, visitors to Ethiopia for Ganna could expect to witness natives dressed entirely in white. Many individuals wear a traditional garment known as a Netela. The Netela is a white cotton garment with colorful woven borders worn similarly to a shawl.

The Netela, Ethiopia's traditional dress, is worn at a variety of different public festivals and celebratory events.

Ethiopians attend church on Christmas Eve

Due to the theological significance of Ganna in the Ethiopian calendar, Orthodox Christians attend mass on Christmas Eve (January 6th), also known in Ethiopia as the gahad of Christmas.

The church service usually begins about 6 p.m. and lasts into the early hours of Christmas morning. Chanting and singing are fundamental to the liturgies, and many people go from church to church before dawn to participate in numerous services.

Ethiopian Christmas game

A game called Genna is played at Ethiopian Christmas. According to one Ethiopian tale, when the shepherds in the Christmas story learned of Jesus' birth, they celebrated with an impromptu game of hockey using their wooden staffs.

As a result, on Christmas Day, boys and young men play a hockey-like game using a curved wooden stick and ball. Yágenna Chewata, or Genna for short, is the name of the game.

3. Where to Celebrate Ganna in Ethiopia?

Ganna is celebrated across Ethiopia, so visitors may enjoy the occasion regardless of where they are staying. Tourists who want to observe Ethiopia's most prominent Christmas celebrations should visit the holy city of Lalibela. Lalibela is a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the North of the nation, noted for its churches carved into the rock.

Lalibela's population nearly doubles over the Christmas season as thousands of pilgrims come on the town and congregate in the hills around the rock-hewn churches. Visitors planning to stay in or around Lalibela during this period should book their accommodations well in advance. Ethiopian Christmas may also be spent in Addis Ababa, the country's capital.

People celebrate Ganna in Lalibela

People celebrate Ganna in Lalibela

4. Happy Ethiopian Christmas 2023 with different things

The Ethiopian Christmas atmosphere is approaching. Let's enjoy the traditional atmosphere. Sending best wishes and wishes to each other

What day is Ethiopian Christmas 2023?

Christmas Day 2023 in Ethiopia is Saturday, January 7

How to say Merry Christmas in the Ethiopian language?

Melkam Gena! This is Merry Christmas in Amharic, Ethiopia’s national language. In Genna date, the Ethiopian greetings by Melkam Gena! Melkam Gena.

In the Amharic language, Father Christmas or Santa Claus is called 'Yágena Abãt', which means 'Christmas Father'.

What is a popular Christmas song in Ethiopia?

In Ethiopia, the song "Do They Know It's Christmas?" by Bob Geldof and Midge Ure is the most popular Christmas song. The song was written in 1984 for a charity. This song was to raise money for the famine in Ethiopia in 1983–1985.

Best wishes for Ethiopian Christmas cards

On Christmas Day, Ethiopians give each other good wishes and good luck. You can take a look at these examples of messages for Orthodox Christmas:

1. May the Lord provide you peace, love, and pleasure. May he provide you the discernment to perceive the light of truth. Christmas greetings.

2. Let us pray this year that all of God's beautiful creations remain blessed and that the Almighty showers his blessings on everybody.

3. Christmas is a time to pray, sing songs, and read the Bible. It is time to reflect and return to the God-ordained path.

4. Let the Jingle Bells ring and spread joy and happiness. May the Lord grant all of the lovely children the happiness they deserve.

5. Merry Christmas to all of you. Stay blessed in the Lord's nectory blessing.

Ethiopian Christmas traditions are about a different planet and surely a very different manner of enjoying Christmas. We hope that this information about Ethiopian Christmas customs has informed you of the many ways in which Christmas is celebrated.

We offer Ethiopia e-Visa services to facilitate your fast and easy journey across Ethiopia so you can enjoy your miracle moments during the Christmas holidays. Please visit the Ethiopia Immigration Services website and get more information about the Ethiopian eVisa, which is a new visa type for citizens of eligible countries.