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Ethiopian Christmas - Gennaa

(Ethiopian Christmas, 7 January)

While excitement over Christmas festivities dies down in other parts of the world: it marks the beginning for many Ethiopians. Ethiopia still retains the ancient Julian calendar so Ethiopian Christmas falls on January 7th (of the Gregorian calendar)-a hot summer's day when people in towns and villages dress up in their finest to celebrate this important festival.


The Ethiopian name given to Christmas is Ledet or Genna, on the other hand, according to elders, comes from the word Gennana (eminent) to express the coming of the Lord and the freeing of mankind from his sins.


Genna is also the name given to a hockey-like ball game. Legend has it that when shepherds heard of the birth of Christ they rejoiced and started playing the game with their sticks. Men and boys in villages now play the traditional Genna game with great enthusiasm in the late afternoon of Christmas day-a spectacle much enjoyed by village communities and the elders who referee the game.

However, in a country where religion is strongly interwoven with the lifestyles of its people, Genna festivities begin earlier in the day, as early as 6 A.M when people gather in churches for mass. For the clergy it has begun much earlier, 43 days before, with the fasting period leading up to Genna. This pensive fasting period is required of the clergy and is known as the fast of the prophets. The fast of Advent is carried out to cleanse the body and soul in preparation for the day of the birth of Christ.

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