Days and Holidays in Ethiopia

Ethiopia is the land of 13 months of sunshine. Literally. The Ethiopian calendar includes 13 months, instead of 12, and almost every day is sunny.

Part of our acculturation has included getting used to a new calendar (separate dates, months, and even years) and the ever-necessary conversions and calculations to clarify and understand time. Thankfully, the medical school and hospital use the Gregorian calendar!

But holidays in Ethiopia are lovely to experience, if very different from the holidays we have known. So far we have been here for Ethiopian New Year (September 11), Meskel (September 28), Ethiopian Christmas (was January 7), and now this weekend (April 26-28) is Ethiopian Easter weekend.

Common themes for holidays:

  • Feasting. Like many cultures, holidays are celebrated with feasting, especially with meat. For Christmas and Easter, which are preceded by 40-55 days of vegan fasting, the lamb and chicken stews are especially anticipated. And so at holidays there is an influx of chickens and sheep and goats herded throughout the streets and strapped to the top of taxis and trucks…
  • Special bread. While injera is the traditional, every-day flatbread, many holidays are celebrated with a large round yeast bread seasoned with coriander seeds, difo dabo. It is cut with great ceremony (like cutting a birthday cake) and served in giant pieces to everyone.
  • Decorate with green grass. Instead of streamers and balloons, Ethiopians bring fresh-cut green grass to scatter on the floor of homes, restaurants, and businesses to announce and celebrate the holiday.
  • Kolo. An assortment of roasted grains (wheat, barley), sunflower seeds, and maybe peanuts. Served dry and lightly seasoned as a snack food.
  • Traditional clothes. Typically white loom-woven cloth with colorful embroidery and borders – they are worn for holidays, ceremonies, and special occasions. Almost everyone has a set. (I guess we need to do some shopping for our own….)

Although having a calendar and holiday schedule out-of-sync with the seasons and times we have been used to is a little disorienting, there has been a real benefit. Twice the time spent meditating on the arrival of our Savior to this broken planet. Twice the time to reflect on His death, the one that should have been mine, and His resurrection, that now is mine.

The trimmings and flavor are different, but the essentials don’t change: what we celebrate and why. Praying you have a blessed Ethiopian Easter!

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