By Desta Kahsay (ENA)
Ethiopians celebrate many of the religious holidays in a peculiar way. Among thos holidays celebrated in a unique way is Christmas or Gena. Unlike countries that follow Gregorian calendar Ethiopians celebrate Gena on 7 January.
Though the way they celebrate may vary in the context of various cultural settings, Orthodox Christians in central and Eastern Europe and other parts of the world celebrate Christmas on January 7 like Ethiopians.
Christmas is a day for feasting and enjoying the company of friends and family members. The celebration of Gena includes a mass at all churches after midnight. The celebration at the rock-hewn churches of Lalibela is unique. Christmas is celebrated in a very peculiar and attractive ways due to the birth date of King Lalibela, who constructed the historic and mesmerizing churches, being on similar day.
The Ethiopian Christmas comes after a special advent of fasting for 43 days known as ‘Fast of the Prophets’ (tsome Nebiyat).
The celebration involves a big festivity breaking the fasting season for most people from meat and animal products. The holiday cooking includes several culinary varieties.
The holiday dishes comprise of Injera, large flat bread and a variety of spicy stews with beef, lamb and chicken creating a mouthwatering combination. Every household during Gena prepares a distinctive dishes such as Doro wot - chicken stew with boiled eggs - chopped collard seasoned greens, lamb, Kitfo (minced raw beef), Tibs (traditionally seasoned and fried meat).
Christmas is also celebrated with various activities such as horse racing, authentic folk dancing and most of all playing Ye-Gena Chewata - a traditional game that resembles hockey mainly in rural areas.
Ethiopian cultural game known as Ye-Gena Chewata played during the Christmas is one of the many traditional and cultural games.
Ye-Gena Chewata is played by the youth and adult men during Christmas season between December and January mainly in rural areas. Once the game is started in the afternoon it continues till the sun sets.
Ye-Gena Chewata is played between two teams using a crude hockey stick, ‘Gena’ and small wooden ball ‘rur’. Men and young boys participate in the game and no fierce rivalry is exhibited for it is rejoicing the holiday in friendship and happiness.
It is a game played together by people from all walks of life including masters and subordinates.
How Ye-Gena Chewata is played
Leaders for the two competing teams are appointed at first and then a pair of players will secretly be given different names to themselves and they will assign players to the two groups. Two people mostly old men will be appointed as a referee.
The contenders could be monasteries, villages such as downtown or otherwise, localities or married and bachelors. The game does not restrict the number of players that comes in and out till the completion of the game. On the other hand, when a player is unable to continue the game due to injuries he will be substituted by another through the referees.
Players wearing knee-up shorts gently kick the ‘’rur using the curved tip part of Gena in order to roll and shoot.
The winners of the game receive a prize which in most cases constitutes a huge circular traditional bread or smaller loaves of bread. Sometimes additional prizes of sheep are awarded.
The other worth noting thing about Ye-Gena Chewata is the inclusivity of participants from all walks of life. Master and subordinate has no room for feeling of revenge and intimidation as well as the freedom of contenders to display their talent.
Ye-Gena Chewata is among the Ethiopian traditional games that are included in the list of cultural sports to be promoted locally and globally.