Globally celebrated festival Christmas is known for its fervor and enthusiasm. People living across the equator, especially in the Southern and Northern Hemisphere like Australia, Africa etc experience Christmas in summers. However white Christmas is observed in North America, Antarctica and Eurasia. Ethiopia is one such destination where Christmas is celebrated every year on January 7, just like the European Christmas is always celebrated on December 25 every year, since Ethiopians follow the ancient Julian calendar.
Indians wishing to experience the uniqueness of the Ethiopian Christmas can visit the Ethiopian Cultural Center in New Delhi, where each year where they showcase Ethiopian art, music, dance and it also boasts about being the only outlet in India that serves Ethiopian cuisine.
The Ethiopian Orthodox Church’s celebration of Christ’s birth is called Ganna. Ethiopians don a traditional shamma, a thin, white cotton wrap with brightly coloured stripes across the ends. The priests are dressed in turbans and red and white robes as they carry embroidered fringed umbrellas.
The churches in Ethiopia echo the shape of the houses. In many parts of the country, there are ancient churches carved out of solid volcanic rock. Modern churches are built in three concentric circles. In a modern church, the choir assembles in the outer circle. Each person entering the church is given a candle. The congregation walks around the church thrice in a solemn procession, holding the candles. They gather in the second circle to stand throughout the long mass, with the men and boys separated from the women and girls. The center circle is considered the holiest space in the church, where the priest serves Holy Communion.
The men and boys play a game that is also called Ganna. It is similar to hockey, played with a curved stick and a round wooden ball.
The food enjoyed during the Christmas season include Wat, a thick, spicy stew of meat, vegetables, and sometimes eggs as well. The Wat is served from a decorated watertight basket onto a plate of Injera, a flat sourdough bread. Pieces of Injera are used as an edible spoon to scoop the Wat.
Ganna is not an occasion for giving gifts in Ethiopia. If a child receives any gift at all, it is usually a small gift of clothing. Religious observances, feasting, and games are the focus of the season. On January 19, Ethiopians begin the three-day celebration called Timkat, which commemorates the baptism of Christ.