Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Ganna - Christmas Blog Post Swap #4

Merry Christmas!!

This week, Shelley, Hannah, Rachel, and I are posting our final post to our Christmas series on our own blogs.  

This week, I researched what an Ethiopian Christmas is like.

In Ethiopia, the people use the Julian calendar.  That means they celebrate Christmas on January 7.  Christmas is called "Ganna" in Ethiopia.  The major religion in Ethiopia is the Ethiopian Orthodox Church.  Almost everyone celebrates Christmas.

On Christmas Eve (January 6), many people fast.  Then at dawn, they get ready for mass.  They dress in "shamma," a long, thin white toga with bright colored strips across the end.  Mass starts at 4 in the morning.  They enter the church and walk around the church three times with lit candles.  Then the men and boys stand separately from the women and girls, as the traditional Ethiopian Orthodox churches have no seats.  Mass usually lasts three hours.

After mass, the men and boys will play a game of "ganna," similar to hockey.  The game is intense with rivalry.  

The people in Ethiopia will break their fast with a Christmas meal.  This is often is "wat" on "injera."  Wat is a thick, spicy stew of meat (chicken) and vegetables.  Injera is flat bread, used to scoop up the wat.

People do not exchange gifts on Christmas.  Sometimes the children will receive a gift of clothes from their family.  Mostly, Christmas is a celebration of Jesus' birth by going to church, eating good food, and playing games.

Twelve days later, they traditionally celebrate the baptism of Jesus.  This is called "timkat."  It lasts three days.  They usually attend a church procession during timkat.  The priests will wear red and white robes.  The adults wear the shamma.  The youth wear gowns from their church youth group.  During the procession, musical instruments are played.  

After the long church service, men play a game called "yeferas guks."  This sounds like a rather dangerous game, as the men throw lances at each other!

Christmas in Ethiopia is a time of celebration, remembering the birth of Jesus, the Savior of the world.  While the festivities are different than those in the USA, the origin of the holiday remains the same.  

This Christmas, I remember my kiddos all over the world and think of the different ways they may have celebrated.  And I look forward to sending Abdisa a special letter on Ganna.


read my posts from this Christmas series about Christmas celebrations in other countries -


  1. I knew that Ethiopia used a different calendar, but didn't think about the implications with that changing their Christmas date! How interesting that they also celebrate Jesus' baptism. I really enjoyed learning that most churches don't have seats and the men and woman sit separately. I'll have to ask my Ethiopian kids about the game ganna. We make wat frequently…it's one of my husband's favorite meals! But I have to cut down on the spice…I can't handle it as spicy as the recipe calls for!

    1. Me too, Hannah! I would have never even thought of a different day to celebrate Christmas even tho the people in ET use a different calendar. Oh yum! I'm definitely going to have to get the wat recipe from you - it sounds so good!! :)