When and Why Ethiopian Christmas is always celebrated on January 7th (according to the Gregorian calendar). Ethiopian Christmas is a celebration of Christ’s birth, also known as Genna.
Customs Prior to Genna, people fast for up to 43 days. After dressing, everyone goes to church for an early morning mass at as early as 4:00am. After the mass, people go home to feast. Also, around the time of Genna, men and boys play a game that is also called genna. It is played kind of like hockey, and is played with a curved stick and a round wooden ball. Ethiopian Christmas does not feature gifts. Also, they burn frankincense in recognition of one of the Three Kings.
Food Among the traditional food eaten on Genna, they eat doro wat (a traditional spicy stew that consists of chicken, vegetables, and sometimes also egg), injera (a thin, pancake-like sourdough bread used as an edible dish and utensil), and tej (a honey wine).
Clothing During Genna, Ethiopians dress in white, and most wear a traditional shamma, which is a thin white cotton wrap with brightly colored stripes across the ends and it is worn kind of like a toga. Urban Ethiopians might choose to wear white Western clothes.
History Christianity (and Christmas) have been a part of Ethiopia since around 330 A.D. As with Christmas around the world, Ethiopian Christmas started out as a celebration of Jesus Christ’s birth, and Ethiopian Christmas still is. The game genna is believed to have been played by shepherds when they heard of Jesus’s birth. Orthodox Ethiopians believe that one of the Three Kings who brought gifts to Jesus’s birth was Balthazar from Ethiopia. The gift he is believed to have brought was frankincense. This is why one of the customs for Genna is burning frankincense.