Ethiopian Christmas, “Genna”

Ethiopian Christmas, “Genna”

“Genna” is a local name in Ethiopia for Christmas. Genna comes from the word “Gennana” meaning “imminent”. Which expresses the coming of the Lord and the freeing of mankind from sin. Certainly, It coincides with other Orthodox Christmas celebrations around the world.  The feast marks the end of the 40-day fasting periods of Advent. On Ethiopian Christmas Eve, the faithful participate in church services through the night. This is before celebrating with family and friends on Christmas day.


Various activities mark the celebration of Ethiopian Christmas. Almost Horse racing and authentic folk dancing are the main ones. Lalibela is a place to celebrate “Genna” in very attractive ways. Because of the similarity of the birth date with King Lalibela, on of the most famous leader in the ancient Ethiopian history. Two youth teams conduct a popular game in the rural areas. It looks like European Hockey but is typically Ethiopian. Indeed, “Yegena Chewata” is the name of the game.

Christmas is more unique in rural areas than in the cities. It is celebrated seriously by a church service that goes on throughout the night. Many people move from one church to another wearing white cloths & attend religious occasions. 

Even more, It is quietly shared and celebrated in groups of friends and family. Gift giving is a very small part of Christmas festivities in Ethiopia and only small gifts are exchanged among family and friends at home. The festive mood usually 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.

Lalibela is the most popular place to celebrate Genna, as thousands of pilgrims flock to the holy city for this celebration. 

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