by Sarah Assefa April 16, 2019
Ethiopia is a country with more than 70 languages and dozens of ethnicities. We have 100’s of unique and beautiful cultural ceremonies across the country. Various backstories lead to these ceremonies’ existence; some of them are based on religion, while others come from folklore tales. However, most ceremonies celebrated in Ethiopia are a mix of culture and religion, because religion is deeply rooted in Ethiopia’s history.
Ethiopians share a similar preparation process ahead of any cultural ceremony. The first tradition is sacrificing sheep and chicken to make traditional Ethiopian dishes like Doro Wot and Dulet. You are very likely to see sheep being sold everywhere a few weeks before any major event. Ethiopia’s way of celebrating almost any ceremony will always include meat. That’s why there are not many weddings, parties during the fasting seasons in Ethiopia. The second similarity is that every cultural event brings families and communities together to celebrate regardless of their religion or ethnic backgrounds.
Most common cultural ceremonies
Ethiopian New Year
The Ethiopian New year is probably one of the largest and widely celebrated events in Ethiopia. What sets our calendar apart from the Georgian calendar is the 7-year gap, meaning as of 2021 GC, Ethiopia is still in 2013. The other factor that sets the Ethiopian New Year apart is that we have 13 months instead of 12 months. The thirteenth month is called Pagume and consists of only 5-6 days. Ethiopian New Year typically falls on the 11th of September except for leap years when it falls on the 12th of September. We usually prepare for it by butchering cattle and chicken and making a wide variety of meaty Ethiopian dishes. The New Year falls during the end of the rainy season, and the whole country is covered in vibrant yellow flowers called the Adey Ababa. Ethiopians spread the flowers all around the house in preparations for the New Year.
Eid al Fitr
The Eid al Fitr holiday is the most important ceremony for Muslims across the globe. It’s the day Muslims month-long fast called the holy month of Ramadan comes to an end. Over 40% of Ethiopia’s population are Muslims. The Muslims usually gather to pray their Eid prayers at home or in the mosques. Later on, families gather together to eat and then have the famous coffee ceremony. After lunch, families usually leave to visit other family members or friends. Eid al Fitr is a Muslim holiday, but the Christian population usually takes part in it by celebrating alongside them. One of the most memorable Eid al Fitr ceremonies was in the year 2019 when more than a hundred thousand Muslims came together around the stadium area to pray the Eid prayer together.
Ashenda is a ceremony more commonly celebrated around the northern region of Tigray and some parts of the Amhara region. It and marks the end of Filseta, a 2-week fasting period around the month of August. The Ashenda is celebrated to honor the resurrection of the Virgin Mary to heaven. The ceremony lasts three days to a few weeks, depending on the region where it’s observed. Single, young women dress up in their best Habesha Kemis, style their hair in the traditional ways and dress in their best jewelry during the Ashenda. They go out together and celebrate by singing, dancing, and drumming in joy. Even though the ceremony is heavily celebrated in the Tigray region, Addis Ababa does get a great taste of the agenda vibe for a few days or even a week. Women in Habesha kemis roam the streets singing, dancing and drumming to the crowd in bars, restaurants, and hotels. Bars and clubs host Ashenda themed parties too. This ceremony is strictly for women meaning men don’t participate in the celebration except for as a viewer.
Irrecha is a cultural event celebrated by the most prominent ethnic of Ethiopia: the Oromo people. It is a thanks-giving ceremony where the Oromo people thank their God (Waqqa) for all the prosperity for the previous year and pray for a fruitful year ahead after the end of the rainy season. It is usually celebrated in early October and lasts for a few days or weeks.
Oromos celebrate by dressing up in their black, red, and white dress and jewelry and visit the holy rivers scattered across the Oromo region to sprinkle water on each other and themselves using green leaves. In 2019 the Irrecha festival was celebrated in the Capital city Addis Ababa for the first time in over 100 years as a symbol of love and unity of all ethnicities in Ethiopia.
Expectations during these cultural events
-The roads will be blocked for a few hours or the whole day, depending on the area you live in. Celebrations and watchers entirely flood the already congested infrastructure, so forget about running errands on such a day.
-Most businesses like banks, government offices, etc are going to be closed.
Mark your calendar so you do not miss out on any of these exhilarating cultural events in Ethiopia. If you plan on visiting the main cities or regions that host the ceremonies, make sure you plan your trip a while ahead to ensure you have a place to stay. Hotels and guest houses are very difficult to book during some of these ceremonies as tourists visit from different corners of the world to witness them.
by Sarah Assefa December 08, 2020
by Sarah Assefa March 01, 2019
by Sarah Assefa December 16, 2017
Welcome to Ethiopia, the birthplace of coffee. The discovery of coffee in Ethiopia dates back to the 9th century. Legend has it that a farmer named Kaldi discovered coffee after finding his sheep jumping with energy after consuming the wild berry.
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~Ethiopia's rising star storyteller~