Ganna: The Ethiopian Christmas
Ethiopia is one of the oldest nations in Africa nations and is one of the few countries which follows the Julian calendar. Therefore, Ethiopians celebrate Christmas on January 7th rather than December 25th.
The Ethiopian Orthodox Church calls the celebration of Christmas Ganna. Ethiopian families celebrate Ganna on January 7th, but they begin fasting on January 6th, equivalent to our December 24th (Christmas Eve). On Christmas morning, everyone dresses in white and attends a morning mass, which begins at 4am Ethiopian time.
In the modern churches a choir assembles in a large circle outside of the church. Each person who attends the mass is given a candle. The mass begins with the entire congregation walking around the church three times while holding the candles provided to them. Among the group itself, men and boys are separated from the women and girls. The center of the circle is the known as the holiest place in the church where the priest serves Holy Communion.
The festivities of Ganna don’t just include going to church – the whole day is full of fun. Boys and girls play games and Ethiopians indulge in special holiday foods, including wat, a stew made of meats, vegetables, and sometimes eggs with injera, an Ethiopian sourdough bread. Following Ganna Ethiopians begin a three-day celebration called Timkat, which begins on January 19th. Timkat is similar to Ganna a time of celebration, music, dancing, religious activities, and fun!