Thursday, December 6, 2012

A Christmas Story, Ethiopia...

One thing that's super important is keeping our child's hertiage a part of their life long after they leave Ethipoia.  Last year was about the time we offically started the adoption process and I remember that was the first time I'd heard the phrase "Melkam Gena" which means Merry Christmas in Ethiopia. Well, wanting to jump on the train, I went ahead and started researching my brains on what Christmas in Ethiopia might look like here's a bit of what I found (thank you TLC)...

"Ethiopia is one of the oldest nations in Africa. It still follows the ancient Julian calendar, so Ethiopians celebrate Christmas on January 7. The Ethiopian Orthodox Church's celebration of Christ's birth is called Ganna. It is a day when families attend church.

The day before Ganna, people fast all day. The next morning at dawn, everyone dresses in white. Most Ethiopians don a traditional shamma, a thin, white cotton wrap with brightly colored stripes across the ends. The shamma is worn somewhat like a toga. Urban Ethiopians might put on white Western garb. Then everyone goes to the early mass at four o'clock in the morning. In a celebration that takes place several days later, the priests will dress in turbans and red and white robes as they carry beautifully embroidered fringed umbrellas.

Around the time of Ganna, the men and boys play a game that is also called ganna. It is somewhat like hockey, played with a curved stick and a round wooden ball.

The foods 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 beautifully decorated watertight basket onto a "plate" of injera, which is flat sourdough bread. Pieces of injera are used as an edible spoon to scoop up the wat.

Twelve days after Ganna, on January 19, Ethiopians begin the three-day celebration called Timkat, which commemorates the baptism of Christ. The children walk to church services in a procession. They wear the crowns and robes of the church youth groups they belong to. The grown-ups wear the shamma. The priests will now wear their red and white robes and carry embroidered fringed umbrellas.

The music of Ethiopian instruments makes the Timkat procession a very festive event. The sistrum is a percussion instrument with tinkling metal disks. A long, T-shaped prayer stick called a makamiya taps out the walking beat and also serves as a support for the priest during the long church service that follows. Church officials called dabtaras study hard to learn the musical chants, melekets, for the ceremony.
Ethiopian men play another sport called yeferas guks. They ride on horseback and throw ceremonial lances at each other.
Ganna and Timkat are not occasions 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.”

Well, that was a bit lengthy, but don’t you feel informed now?! I’m not 100% sure exactly how much of these traditions we’ll keep going in our family.  I’m sure they will change from year to year, but I hope to aknoledge the holiday on January 7th, and hopefully cook a traditional Ehtiopian meal (which may prove difficult since I don’t like cooking…at all) but I plan to try.

For your listening pleasure, Ethiopian Christmas Music

What holiday traditions do you plan to keep from your child’s birth country?

All you Congo families, ready for a Christmas Story from the Congo??? Stay tuned....



  1. Thank you so much for posting this. Very informative!!

  2. If anyone lives near Oakland, CA, they already know A)that there are a notable and active Ethiopian and Eritrean communities, and B) how delicious the food is.

    I saw this Living Social deal today for an Ethiopian cooking class and basket of ingredients and it would make a great gift or class if someone lives in the Bay Area. I personally would love to learn how to make injera!

    I just thought it was timely with this informative post (I watched the video while doing my PT this morning) in case anyone could benefit.

  3. Thanks for posting. Not sure the traditions we will keep...maybe Ethiopian food and dressing in white on Jan. 7th. I am with you. Learning to cook Ethiopian food is going to be hard, since I don't usually cook. We have to drive 2 hours to the nearest restaurant. We are going there for Christmas with our family, but is a bit far for every time we crave Ethiopian food!

  4. Thanks in favor of sharing such a fastidious idea, piece of writing is nice, thats why i have read it…
    A Journey To Ethiopi