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Why Ethiopians Celebrate Christmas on January 7


Africa Facts Zone presents  Why Ethiopians Celebrate Christmas on January 7

Ethiopians, Eritreans and other Coptic Christians celebrate Christmas on January 7, 2022, rather than December 25, as the rest of the world.

When it comes to religious celebrations in Ethiopia, January 7th is a significant date for Ethiopian Orthodox Christians. Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Egypt are the three largest Coptic Orthodox Churches in Africa.

Ethiopians, Eritreans, and other Coptic Christians still use the ancient Julian calendar, which places Christmas on January 7 (of the Gregorian calendar) despite the fact that the Gregorian calendar places Christmas on December 25.

Christmas is called “Genna” in Ethiopia, meaning “imminent,” signifies the Lord’s imminent arrival and salvation of mankind.


Why Ethiopians Celebrate Christmas on January 7

Fasting for 43 days prior to Christmas on January 7

During the 43 days leading up to Christmas on January 7, many Ethiopians fast. There is a period of fasting from November 25th to January 7th, which is called as Tsome Nebiyat (Fasting of the Prophets).

Over the course of 43 days, Ethiopians have only one meal per day, which must be free of dairy and eggs because these foods are to be avoided when fasting.


An extra-long midnight service is customary in many churches on Christmas Eve. Christmas Eve is spent with family and friends, followed by a feast and parties, but not before the faithful congregate in churches for Christmas Day mass, which begins at 6:00 am local time.

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White Dress is Worn on Genna

Why Ethiopians Celebrate Christmas on January 7


Netelas, a type of traditional attire, are worn by many individuals and used to celebrate Christmas on January 7. It’s a white cotton garment with coloured borders that’s worn like a shawl.

City of Lalibela and Genna


Lalibela, Ethiopia’s historic city noted for its rock-cut cathedrals, is the place where Ethiopian Christians celebrate Genna or Christmas on January 7


Over 100,000 pilgrims visit the famed rock-cut chapels created over 800 years ago to see Orthodox clergy in their finest attire conduct a woreb on the rocky slopes surrounding them.

Why Ethiopians Celebrate Christmas on January 7

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Genna’s Favorite Meals

At the crack of dawn on January 7th, a modest supper will be served to break the fast of 43 days. Later in the day, a Doro Wat, a spicy stew made of beef, vegetables, and sometimes an egg, is served. Ethiopian flatbreads, known as injera, are used to scoop up the stew and eat it with a spoon.

Ethiopia’s Timkat festival is another significant event on the Ethiopian calendar, and the same food is served.

A sweet Ethiopian honey wine, tej, is served to go along with the meal.

Genna is a platform for playing games

Men and boys frequently engage in a game known as Genna. A circular hardwood ball and a curled stick are used, just as in hockey. Legend has it that shepherds rejoiced when they learned of Christ’s birth and began playing with their sticks. Horse racing and folk music dancing are also popular pastimes for socialising. In Ethiopia, gift-giving is only a small part of Christmas celebrations.

Also Read: Mursi Women from Ethiopia Wearing Clay Plates as a Sign of Beauty

Genna in Eritrea


In Eritrea, which has a strong Coptic Christian population, Ethiopian Christmas celebrations are very similar to those in Eritrea. The Eastern Orthodox Church, the Eritrean Catholic Church, and the Evangelical Lutheran Church are Eritrea’s three largest churches. In addition to participating in the special fast, Eritrean Christians also celebrate Christmas on January 7.

In the Eritrean Orthodox Tewahedo Church, men and women sit on opposite sides of the aisle, with males on the right and women on the left. The priest is usually dressed in a gold gown and accompanied by five white-veilled assistants. The Eritrean Orthodox Tewahedo Church’s indigenous language, Geez, will be used for the liturgy and Bible readings.

Everyone heads back to their homes after church to eat. Flatbread known as injera is commonly served. Coptic Christians celebrate Christmas in a slightly different way, but the goal is the same: to commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ, who came to save us from our sins.

Coptic Christians will commemorate the baptism of Jesus Christ on January 19th, a holiday known as Timkat among them. On this particular day, a procession of children will make their way to church to attend services.

Another significant holiday, Timkat, occurs just 12 days after Genna. Ethiopian eVisa holders can stay in the country for up to 90 days, allowing them to attend both events in one trip.

Source Credit: Ethiopiaonoinevisa.com



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