In Side the Ethiopian Christmas

In Side the Ethiopian Christmas

By Aklile Tsige /ABN /

If Western-style December hi jinks are not enough, why not head for the Ethiopian cities and towns, and join the country’s January Christmas celebration-and take in a trekking holiday while you are at it?

Ethiopia, one of the oldest nations in Africa, still follows the ancient Julian calendar, and celebrates Christmas on January 7. Commonly known as Ganna in the Amharic language, this’s a celebration of Christ’s birth.

Like in any other Ethiopian holidays, people get dressed in white traditional garment called ‘Netela’-a thin white cotton piece of cloth with brightly colored stripes across the ends.

Around the time of Ganna, men and boys play a traditional game known as Ganna, which is played with a curved stick and a round wooden ball, a bit like field hockey. This game is played because according to local tradition, the biblical shepherds were playing this game while tending their flocks on the night Jesus was born.

Gone are those days when people used to cut trees particularly fir trees, spruce trees, and cedar trees, and bring them to the house and decorating them with lights, ornaments, and sweets. But nowadays, we won’t find any of these trees around, rather we’re compelled to buy artificial plastic trees with twinkling lights.

For Ethiopians, this holiday time is marked by good food, Church services, time spent with family and having local drinks known as ‘tela’ and ‘tej’.

Part of the Ganna celebration usually involves purchasing a goat or cow and slaughtering it for stew. Ethiopians eat traditional dishes of ‘wat’ which is a spicy thick stew that contains meat, lentils, and vegetables.

These stews are served family style on top of a huge piece of injera, which is spongy, flat, pancake-like traditional bread. These days, smaller pieces of injera are rolled up on the sides and used as an edible spoon to scoop up the ‘wat’.

The domestic counters of Addis Ababa Bole International Airport are heaving with passengers going to Lalibela, a town in Northern Ethiopia which is home to what many consider to be one of the Seven Wonders of the World.

Lalibela churches are 11 ancient monolithic structures carved out of solid granite. It’s here that many pilgrims of the Ethiopian Orthodox church from different parts of the country travel to celebrate Christmas colorfully.


Christmas celebration at Lalibela- BeteSt.Geogis Church.


In the capital Addis Ababa, Christmas Eve or a few days before this holiday see the hustle and bustle of people at various markets, malls and shops. Downtown, young people are busy shopping for Christmas gifts.

Addis appears to be blossomed in becoming truly cosmopolitan if judged by the tradition of x-mas. From a visitor’s perspective, the best buys for local souvenirs include handicrafts such as crosses, hand-weaved cotton “Gabbi” and “Shemma”, clothes and scarves, more idiosyncratic items like goat skin, paintings and carvings

No visit to Ethiopia would be complete without a foray into one of its many local markets. Vibrant, colorful and defiantly resistant to Westernized mall culture, these local markets still form the economic and, arguably, social mainstay of Ethiopian village and small-town life, providing an opportunity for subsistence farmers and local artisans to sell, buy or trade goods.

Africa’s largest open air market packed with foodstuffs, crafts and many more goods. Here it is possible to purchase anything you desire from cheap electronics to exotic fruits, from artificial X-mas trees and the accessories twinkling lights, gifts and sweets to kids apparels and shoes as well as a wide-range of household utensils.

Piazza, at the heart of the city, appears to be the most accessible and convenient center of Christmas business for visitors who want to window shop or buy gift articles such as gold and silver rings, bracelets, necklaces and other X-mas related items, including Xmas cards, cookies, kids toys, eye-glasses and modern apparels .

The famous holiday business venue_ the Addis Ababa Exhibition Center is one of the most desirable trade fair spots in the city. It’s also viewed as the hub of all entertainment , consumer and cultural activities, and is reputed events venue for regional and global exhibiting companies.

Days before the holiday the center is usually crammed with shoppers buying anything they want. From gift wrapping to Christmas trees, modern apparels, shoes and bed sheets, to jewels. Here at the center, visitors can enjoy music shows presented by various music bands with young and veteran traditional vocalists.

Entrepreneurs, marketers and businesses large and small have certainly all played a pivotal role in adorning the Christmas business at the center.

Nowadays, it’s common to see shopping mall Santas, having a life-size model of a Santa Claus that drew children to it. This spawned a trend in which store owners offer opportunities to see a real “live” Santa.

The growing number of malls in Addis has recently begun displaying this real “live” Santa accompanied by a deafening sound of holiday music coming out of megaphones at the main gates so that they could captivate the attention of any passers-by.

What’s common during such festive days is the announcement of “Crazy Sale” or “Big Discount” promotion by some businesses. People usually tempted by the advertisement and buy goods for a price they think is a real discount. Nevertheless, many question the reality of the big sale. Do businesses truly and fairly motivate buyers to visit their malls and shops?

Here are five ideas, according to Susan Ward November 27, 2018, for gifting your customers that will help increase Christmas sales and possibly enhance customer loyalty, too.

  1. Provide a free Christmas gift wrapping program.
  2. Give a Christmas gift with each purchase.
  3. Provide free shipping or deliver.
  4. Give customers a discount.
  5. Give customers gift cards.

The Ethiopian Christmas season, therefore, should not just be about increasing sales. It’s also about connecting with people around us, giving thanks and celebrating. It’s about stretching hands to the needy, visiting people who’re bed-ridden, search for someone to accompany them during agonizing moments. Happy Ethiopian Christmas!



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