Christmas Traditions in Ethiopia
In Ethiopia there are more than 80 languages and 200 dialects spoken among the 60 million people in that country. Here are just a few of the Christmas greetings:
In Amharic, the official language of the country, the greeting is: meaning “It is my pleasure to see you in this delightful day of Christmas”. In Oromiffa, the second most widely spoken language, the greeting is: meaning “Happy Christmas”. In Tegergna, the greeting is: meaning “Seasons Greetings”.
The Amharic and Tigergna languages both use the Sabean alphabet, which has been in existence for 4 thousand years. The Oromiffa language uses the Latin alphabet.
A unique aspect of the Ethiopian Christmas celebration involves the game of “Gena” or Ethiopian Hockey. Legend has it that the game was being played by the shepherds who were tending their flocks on the night that Jesus was born. This game is still played today by Ethiopian youths at Christmas time. The game is attended by the leader of the community. A prize is awarded to the winner of the Gena game.
Another interesting aspect of the Ethiopian Christmas celebration is the Christmas dinner. Families gather together and share the meal, which is usually a meat stew. The stew is served on traditional Ethiopian Injera bread and placed on a basket in front of the family. The meal is eaten by taking pieces of Injera bread and using it to scoop out the stew. Injera bread, which is a flat and round, is often used in place of a plate or utensil at Ethiopian meals.
The Evangelical Church has greatly increased in the past half-century. They observe Christmas on the same date as Orthodox Christians but in quite a different manner. They assemble in church on Christmas Eve and observe the occasion with great solemnity. The women turn up in their beautiful national dresses; a number of hymns are sung; the story of the Lord’s Birth is read from the Bible and expounded, and collections are made for distribution to the needy. In the homes the preparations are more or less the same as in the Orthodox homes. In recent years, the custom of setting up Christmas trees in the Evangelical Church and the homes of the believers has been taken from the Western Churches.