Festivals & Events
Ethiopian Christmas Festival in Lalibela
Genna/Ledet or Christmas is celebrated colorfully in Ethiopia especially in Lalibela, the “Second Jerusalem,” the home of the most famous churches and the scene of so many major religious ceremonies.
While the Gregorian calendar celebrates Christmas on the 25th of December, Ethiopia still retains the ancient Julian calendar in which Christmas falls on January 6th/ 7th. People in towns and villages typically dress up in their finest to celebrate.
The Ethiopian name given to Christmas is Ledet or Genna which comes from the word Gennana, meaning “imminent” to express the coming of the Lord and the freeing of mankind from sin.
In the evening before the holiday, you will attend the Ethiopian Christmas Eve Ceremony with the pilgrims. The dancing by the deacons and the priests continue throughout the night while the pilgrims clap and ululate to the drum beat. At midnight, there will be a candlelight ceremony to commemorate the birth of Jesus Christ.
Genna festivities in the morning of the holiday begin as early as 05:00Am when people gather in churches for mass. For the clergy and most of the followers of Ethiopian Orthodox church it has begun much earlier, 43 days before, with the fasting period leading up to Genna. The fast of advent is carried out to cleanse the body and soul in preparation for the day of the birth of Christ.
Although this year’s (2020)Ethiopian Christmas holiday lays on Jan 06th, the residents of Lalibela town celebrate it on the 7th to honorthe birth of King Lalibela on Jan 07th ( the town is named after this king), unlike the rest of Ethiopia.
Jan 05, 2020 (Day 01): Fly to Lalibela. Visit the first group of the churches in the town of Lalibela.O/nMezena Lodge
Jan 06, 2020 (Day 02):Excursion to visit Asheton Maryam church in the morning and in the afternoon visit YemirehanneKirstos Church. These churches are located an hour drive away each from the town of Lalibela. Attend Christmas celebration at night.o/nMezena Lodge
Jan 07, 2020 (Day 03): Earlymorning attend the ceremony held in BeteGeorgis, take some rest and visit the second group of churches in Lalibela in the afternoon. If you have time you will attend cookery class. o/nMezena Lodge
Jan 08, 2020 (Day 04): Fly back to Addis.o/n Departure
Jan 05, 2020 (Day 01): Transfer to the airport for the flight to Lalibela.
At the end of the 12th and beginning of the 13th centuries King Lalibela of the Zaghwe dynasty built a series of rock hewn churches – the New Jerusalem as he called it – now rightly acknowledged to be one of the wonders of the world. There are 11 churches in the town named after him, with others in the surrounding countryside. All are still in use today. (The churches are divided into two groups, the division being the River Yordanos or River Jordan.)
It is estimated that the churches took 25 years to construct – for the Kingdom based on Roha (later renamed Lalibela) to have kept a large work force engaged in economically unproductive labour for such a long period means that it disposed of a large economic surplus and was very wealthy. The area then was clearly fertile and agriculturally productive, whereas now deforestation and population pressures on the land have reduced its productivity.
We check into the Mezena Lodge and can start our tour of the first group of churches before lunch (churches are closed 1200-1400). Today there will be thousands of people so you will only be able to visit the first group of churches. Overnight at Mezena Lodge
Jan 06, 2020 (Day 02):
After breakfast we set off on mule or on foot to the church of Ashetun Mariam, about 4 hours’ round trip. We pass small villages on the way up and there are wonderful views of the surrounding countryside from the top of the mountain where the church is located. Those of our visitors who do not feel up to a hike or mule ride can go a shorter distance by car to the cave church of NeakutoLeab.
After lunch we set off by car to the cave church of Yemrehane Christos, built by the king of the same name before the reign of King Lalibela. The church is constructed inside a cave, in Axumite style, similar to the 7th century monastery at Debre Damo in Tigray, with alternating levels of wood and stone. A 40 km trip from Lalibela followed by a 10 minute hike brings you to this beautiful church, the finest example of its kind in Ethiopia. (The road is bumpy and dusty, but most visitors feel it is well worth it.)
Although Ethiopians Christmas is on January 6, there will be different ceremonies held around the rock-hewn churches starting the night of January 4th. This is an ancient Christian tradition that has remained unchanged over the years.
Today on Lalibela Town’s Christmas Eve you join the white-clad crowds in the church of Bete Emanuel, where the rhythmic chanting and signing continue in the warm candlelight through the night. You will attend this festival starting from 09:00 PMtill midnight.
Jan 07, 2020 (Day 03):In the early hours on the morning of the “Birth of King Lalibela day”/Christmas day, youll witness the solemn mass inBeteGeorgis. The choirs, the song along with the local pilgrimage will leave you with extraordinary experience. After sunrise you file out of the church with the crowds of pilgrims and the priests and deacons, who process to stand on the edge of the cliffs that encircle the church.
Take a break for nap after 09:00 AM till lunch time and continue visiting the second group of the churches in the town of Lalibela namely, Bete Aba Libanos, Bethlehem,BeteMerkorios, Bete Emmanueland BeteGeorgis. If you have enough time visiting the rest of the churches you will attend local cookery class in Lalibela. o/n Mezena Lodge
Jan 08, 2020 (Day 04): Transfer to the airport for the return flight to Addis Ababa. In the afternoon day use room or shopping then depart to the airport. Overnight: – Departure