Good to know This is how you celebrate Christmas in Eritrea

Merry Christmas! Huh? Again? Already? Yes, again — or perhaps “just now”. Because for some religious communities in the world, Christmas is celebrated today, and this includes Eritrea. Since a good chunk of our employees is originally from Eritrea, we’ve asked around to find out how Christmas is celebrated there. What are the customs? What meals are traditionally served and what about the Christmas tree? You will find out all of this — and more — today. 

How it came about
Every year, millions of Orthodox Christians around the world celebrate Christmas on 6 and 7 January — two weeks after most people in the West have already feasted on countless Christmas treats, listened to their favourite Christmas playlists on repeat and started into the new year with all kinds of resolutions. The reason for this is different calendars. 

The Orthodox Christian community celebrates in accordance with the old Julian calendar, which means that the day on which Christmas falls is calculated differently. As a result, Christmas Eve is celebrated on 6 January and Christmas on 7 January. This is the case in countries such as Russia, Georgia, Armenia, Serbia, Egypt, parts of Ethiopia and Eritrea. 

How people celebrate
Embaba and Selemawit tell us about how they celebrate Christmas back at home. Here’s a small peek: On Christmas Eve, everyone goes to church dressed in white and eats traditional dishes, which are shared with everyone while standing together in the centre. 

On Christmas morning, people then eat a traditional breakfast called “Ga'at”. This dish is also often prepared when celebrating that a mother has given birth. It is said that the flour rises in the stomach, thereby filling the void left in the mother’s belly. Welcome, food baby! ;) 

The volcano Ga'at

Ga’at is a savoury dish made from roasted barley or millet flour that is served in the shape of a volcano. The centre contains melted butter enriched with spices. To counteract the spiciness of the spice mix, the volcano is encircled from the outside with yoghurt. 

For Christmas lunch, Eritreans serve sheep meat or chicken dishes that are usually accompanied by the traditional “Suwa” beer. Afterwards, they drink Eritrean coffee while chatting with relatives and neighbours. The Christmas tree is put up and decorated one day before Christmas, and presents are usually clothing items.

Eritrean “Suwa” beer

Just as it is the case in other religious communities and events, this time of the year is all about spending time with your loved ones while eating delicious foods and drinks.

We wish everyone celebrating Christmas today a happy holiday!

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