Ethiopian Christmas Genna

Genna festivities begin early in the day, as early as 6:00 am 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. But January 7th, is a day for feasting and enjoying the friends’ and family members’ company. Everyone attends church and the clergy and Debtera (scholars versed in the liturgy and music of the church) lift their voices in hymn and chant just as it has been for over a 1,500 years when Ethiopia accepted Christianity.  This ancient rite culminates in the spectacular procession of the Tabot (the Tabot is symbolic of the Ark of the Covenant) and carried on top of a priest’s head). The procession makes its way three times around the church amidst ululation and chiming church bells, dazzling umbrellas and colorful attire of the clergy and Debteras (especially designated to accompany the Tabot) as well as a throng of Christians who follow the procession with lighted candles.

Afterwards, people disperse to their homes to feast and the clergy break their fast. Food and drink are plentiful, with many homes preparing the special meals characteristic of all big festivities highlighted on the Ethiopian calendar. Christmas is quietly shared and celebrated in groups of friends and family. Gift giving is a very small part of Christmas festivities in Ethiopia. Only small gifts are exchanged among family and friends at home. But one gift most eagerly awaited by all children is a new outfit that they wear with pride on Christmas Day. The festive mood continues until the late hours of the evening. The joy of giving and sharing, extends beyond religious beliefs and spreads the spirit of peace on earth and goodwill to all mankind throughout the world.