Category Archives: Enjara

Christmas is coming .. in Ethiopia

Melkam Gena / Happy Christmas

Sheep are bought into Addis for sale for holidays

Sheep are bought into Addis for sale for holidays

Christmas is coming and sheep is for the pot.
Onions need cutting and enjara pan is hot.
If you can’t afford a sheep a chicken will do.
If you can’t afford a chicken then God bless you.

This adaptation tells a few home truths about festivals in Ethiopia such as Gena:
mountains of onions are peeled, chopped fine and put in the pot. Enjara bread (pancakes) is baked on the eve of Gena with a big pile ready for the feast. People using electricity in the cities are nervous of power cuts or low power meaning the pan does not

Chickens for sale on street corners

Chickens for sale on street corners

get hot enough. And after the long fast that precedes Gena, everyone wants to eat meat. Best is to buy a sheep, but prices of sheep ahead of festivals has soared in recent years. A small sheep would not cost over $100 USD, for many that is a months salary or more. But a Doro wot- spicy chicken stew – is a favourite for the holiday. Yet even a chicken would cost around $10-15USD. So there are many families who will not be able to afford a chicken this holiday.

In most of Europe and the West, Christmas is the big family day, with presents, special foods, traditions to be followed. For many they will go to church and remember that it is the celebration of the birth of Jesus, but for many more it has become a feast of consumerism and consumption.

In the Ethiopian Orthodox church, the traditional church in Ethiopia and the one that forms the framework of much of the culture of the country, there are several very important festivals throughout the year: Easter, Christmas, Timkat (the celebration of the baptism of Christ) and Meskal being the most important. Add to this new Year, which falls on 11th September in most years, and is very important to many although it is less of a religious day, and you can see that there are a good number of festivals through the year.

Bale Wold church in Addis, crowds gather to see the Tabot

Bale Wold church in Addis, crowds gather to see the Tabot on Gena/ Christmas day.

Feasting is part of all these holidays. It is also family time, with people returning to their mother’s home to enjoy real home cooking. Church is often attended during the night on the eve of the holiday, although with days like Timkat the church procession is a big part of the day’s events.

So where should you go to see Gena?  If you attend any Orthodox church the night before you will witness the service and the mass. In Addis the church of Bale Wold by Selassie celebrates

Gena ceremony in Lalibela

Gena ceremony in Lalibela, the most famous place to spend Christmas in Ethiopia.

Christmas on Christmas morning.  If you have Ethiopian friends they will undoubtably invite you round to partake in the feast. Do bring round gifts of food: coffee, biscuits, fruit, cake, bottle of wine and the like are all acceptable presents.

Gena is most famous in Lalibela. But if you have not booked it you are too late. Accommodation fills up, (so there will be no room at the inn) and flights become full.  Hotels and guides inflate their usual fees, so in addition it does become expensive.




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Welcome to 2008

Ethiopia has just moved into 2008, on the 12th September 2015 by most of the world’s calendar.


New Year grass and sticks

For three years in four the Ethiopian New Year comes on 11th September, but 2007 being a leap year there was an extra day popped on the end of the year, thus moving the New Years day to the 12th. The rest of the word has their leap some 5 months later.

So what do you need to celebrate New Year?

Start of with ‘Chubbo’ bundles of sticks that are used for the bonfire on the eve.  Take a bundle of green grass to decorate the floor for the coffee ceremony.  You could decorate the green floor with flowers too.

New Year chickensThere is a lot of preparation to be done too.  Key among them is the ‘doro wot’ – a spicy chicken stew. Better go to the market, and there is one on the corner of most streets for New Year to buy yourself a chicken. Prices have soared, with a chicken costing upwards of $12 USD. You’ll need to get a few eggs too, a real doro wot has boiled eggs in it.

Enjara needs to be baked – the sour dough Ethiopian pancake on which the spicy food is eaten takes quite a lot of work as the liquid dough is prepared a few days in advance to ferment and the enjara is baked one piece at a time. A challenge this year was the frequent power cuts that interrupted the process leaving many still preparing enjara in the early hours of the morning.

Many will also slaughter a sheep, and vast numbers of sheep (and goats) are walked into Addis from ay miles away, by what would have been known as drovers in England’s past. Huge sheep and goat markets appear around the city and in various locations around the town. Prices go upwards from $130 USD depending on the size of the sheep and how close to the holiday.  Some people will group together to share on an ox.

New Year sheep skinsNot a great day for vegetarians! Every street corner bears witness to the numbers of sheep and goats that were slaughtered. Trucks and pickups then collect these skins, part of the trade in skins which is one of Ethiopia’s significant exports.

Ethiopia’s calendar has a number of big festivals at which chickens, sheep, goats and oxen are dispatched in large numbers, but then it also has many fasting periods when all Orthodox butchers close and meat is off the menu. so perhaps it all evens out.

Sheep escape New YearSome of the sheep escaped to hang in there for another day…  So happy new year to all, and may 2008 good one!

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