Merry Christmas from Ethiopia.
No, we’re not horrendously late in sending out our holiday wishes. For today is the day Ethiopian Christians celebrate Christmas, or Ganna as it is called locally.
The date is just the first in many differences between Ganna and how Christmas is celebrated in other parts of the world.
For a start, there are generally no gifts, with the day dedicated to church, food and games. Nor is there any turkey or ham, with Ethiopians enjoying their traditional ‘wat’, a thick and spicy stew that contains meat, vegetables and sometimes eggs and served on injera, a flat bread.
And be prepared to rise early. Christian Ethiopians begin their celebrations with a 4:00am mass taking place at ancient churches around the country. Worshippers don traditional garments called a shamma; a thin white cotton piece of cloth with brightly colored stripes across the ends and worn like a toga.
Ganna is followed by Timkat, beginning on January 19. The three-day celebration commemorates the baptism of Christ.
In case you’re wondering why we didn’t wish you a Happy New Year, we didn’t forget. New Year’s Day falls on September 11 in the centuries-old Ethiopian Calendar.