Ethiopian Christmas under Cultural Imperialism

'YeGena Chewata‘ is Ethiopian’s very own game which is played during Ethiopia’s Christmas (Gena) season and has some similarity with hockey game of the westerns.

By Fasica Berhane | Ethiopian Harled

In the past people here used to cut countless branches of pine trees to celebrate Christmas colorfully. On the contrast, these days people are less engaged in such activities because they have started using artificial trees in lieu of the natural ones which is encouraging to prevent deforestation. But the question is “Is Christmas tree our tradition at the first place?”

Nowadays Christmas is becoming a commercial transaction than spirituality. These days it not uncommon to see big Christmas trees glittering with motley lamps here and there in city centers, hotels, malls and exhibition corners of Addis Ababa. The trees are catchy for customer’s eyes in so many ways.

People worldwide have their peculiar ways of celebrating Christmas depending on their various traditions, calendar and weather condition.

Western and other continents celebrate Christmas on December 25 following Gregorian calendar which is 8 years ahead from that of Ethiopia’s. According to sources their tradition on celebrating Christmas comes from both spiritual and non spiritual fairy tale based beliefs.

On the other side Ethiopians have many cultures and values that they embrace and feel proud of because, cultures send roots in psyches and history that make them unique from the outside world.

Ethiopian ‘Genna,’ ‘YeGena Abat‘ and ‘YeGena Chewata‘ has their own roots and tradition besides to the spirituality and fasting practices by a larger number of the faithful from the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church.

Followers of this church,and some members of the oriental church, mark this day on January 7 late from the rest of the world. This is due to the fact that Ethiopia uses its very own Coptic ge’ez calendar known as Ethiopian calendar which is 8 years behind the Gregorian calendar.

For Ethiopian Orthodox faithful, Christmas is one of the holiest of its festivals next to Easter. There is a 40-day period of fasting and prayer rituals before the celebration. On the eve of Genna (lidet ) believers gather in the church dressing all white to rejoice and celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ by lighting a candle made of wax along with melodious hymens which creates harmonious and delightful vibe.

At the day of Christmas various dishes and drinks are prepared and served. Family members and neighbors break their fasting. Children and youth sing and dance to express their joy the holiday brings. Elders dressed in costumes watch youngsters play ‘YeGena Chewata‘ Ethiopian’s very own game is played at this season which is similar to hockey game of the westerns.

It’s obvious that these traditions are vanishing year after year and many believe Globalization is responsible for this situation.

Ethiopians of this generation are buckling under the influence of cultural imperialism or western cultures. Take costumes for instance. Christmas trees, Santa clause clothes and other glittering decorations are foreign things, which Ethiopians are adopting as a fad bit by bit without an inkling about their backgrounds and meanings.

As culture, traditions and values are one’s country unique features it is advantageous for Ethiopia to preserve and embrace one’s own culture. In order to pass it on to the next generation, parents should teach their culture to their children rather than being irresponsible by copying others culture like wearing Santa Clause Costumes and using glittering Christmas trees.

Ethiopians should copy the westerns commitment and work ethics and creativity that is beneficial for knowledge and development but when it comes to tradition Ethiopians have rich, decent and beautiful cultures praised and valued by the westerners. The bottom line is Ethiopians should hold on to their decent cultures.