Melkam Gena (Merry Christmas)!!

Hello all! To celebrate Gena with our Ethiopian children today, Heaven would like to share her memories of the holiday from when she was a child in Ethiopia. We hope you enjoy learning about these beautiful traditions.

Selam Gena, enkun dena metash!!

Well, where should I start?!

Here it goes a trip to memory land, Gena (Christmas) celebration in Ethiopia! Gena is one of my favorite holidays!!

The festivities for the children of Ethiopia starts two days before Gena. The preparation looks something like this, the neighborhood gang (groups of friends that play together) gather two days before Gena to work on our musical instrument (made up of beer caps & cloth hanging wires). The boys bring the hanging wires from where ever and the girls will gather bottle caps from our games (game called pepsi- another blog). We set up our equipment (stones) and beat on the caps to make them thin enough to create a hole in them. We straighten enough of them to have about 10 caps line up together. That usually takes about 4 hours to produce enough for 6-10 musical instruments (for most of the group). Now, the hard part of preparation has been completed. We take a break to play for the rest of that day.

On Gena eve, we start our day early (6am). We get together to find & cut our Gena tree from areas most of us would go to each year. We go with our musical instruments and an axe. The time of us walking to the location and returning home with our trees is some of the most fun (full of laughter, wishes, desires, hopes, jokes…). Right when we get home, most close friends (at least mine) would decorate the Gena tree together. Our parents usually buy us whole bag of candies for ornaments (candies = ornament in Ethiopia at least when I was there). These candies would be colorful – green, yellow, red, blue, purple, brown, orange, gray, black …..You get the picture!

Imagine this with me?! About 6-8 of us (children from the neighborhood) in one home. We break into groups, two people per job.

  • Thread team – puts the thread on the candy and pass it on to candy team
  • Candy team – Puts on the candies evenly colored
  • Lights team – try to surround the tree evenly
  • Tree team – make sure the tree stands

We do this house to house in the neighborhood until every house is decorated. Then on Gena day, everyone wakes up early and puts on their new clothes. Right after, each one of us (children) go outside of our houses to show off the new clothes. After the admiration of “wow, that’s cool, wow can I borrow that after Gena, wow make a turn, do circle for me, wow you are lucky, wow this is the best Gena ever….” We go back to our homes to get our musical instruments (that we made two days ago). Right after, we meet to go sing to the neighborhood. We go house to house with Gena songs for an exchange of money and blessings from the elders (forehead kisses with whisper of blessings – my most favorite part). Then around 11am we stop to eat breakfast. We eat breakfast and brag about how much money and treats we got to our families.

As you can imagine breakfast looked different in every family. In my house at breakfast, blessings get started by my grandpa. He starts blessings my parents then blesses me (the youngest). By the end there is joy, happiness, grace, and overwhelming cheerfulness. My family starts to get ready to go to our other family houses (where I make more money). After going from family to family houses and enjoyment of cousins, I would always end up in the arms of my dad passed out asleep.

This is my Gena. Please be mindful, this is written from an eye of child…. The festivity of Gena is different for people all across Ethiopia. If I start writing all the traditions that Gena entails, I would be here for days. But these are my happy memories that I wanted to share with you, and I wish you all a Melkam Gena!

~ Heaven