Christmas (Gena)

Ethiopia (and especially the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church) celebrates Christmas on January 7th, not December 25th. The Ethiopian Calendar has different months – and Christmas in on the 29th of Tahsas. Many other orthodox churches around the world also celebrate Christmas on the 7th January. The calendar the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church uses originally came from calendar used by the Coptic Orthodox Church (which is based in Egypt) but now has it’s own special days.

The Christmas celebration in the Ethiopian Orthodox Church is called Ganna or Genna. Most people go to Church on Christmas day.

Many people take part in a special Advent fast during the 43 days before Christmas. It starts on 25th November and is known as the ‘Fast of the Prophets’ (Tsome Nebiyat). During this time, traditionally only one vegan meal is eaten each day. It’s a vegan meal because during the fast, foods including meat, dairy, eggs and wine aren’t eaten.

For Ganna, people get dressed in white. Most people wear a traditional garment called a Netela. It’s a thin white cotton piece of cloth with brightly colored stripes across the ends. It’s worn like a shawl or toga. If you live in a big town or city you might wear ‘western’ clothes. People go to church mass on Christmas Eve (called the gahad of Christmas) at 6.00pm and the service finishes about 3.00am on Christmas Day.

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