January 8, 2007
Merry Ethiopian Christmas
So it was great to have a second chance yesterday on Ethiopian Christmas Day. As everyone who reads this must know by now, Ethiopia has its own calendar and time system - 7am is 1am, 2007 is currently 1999, there are 13 months in the year and Christ was born on January 7.
In our neighbourhood, the thing to do on Christmas Day is to walk over to Jan Meda - a huge public park - and watch the programme of ancient, traditional sports. There was traditional wrestling (see pic), traditional throwing-a-spear-through-a-rolling-hoop, traditional wild wild horse riding and traditional Gena, a team game with curved sticks, a small hard ball and goals that looks uncannily like hockey.
Capital tells us:
The game has a long but unrecorded history. Oral tradition tells that at the time of the birth of Christ, the shepherds nearby played 'Gena' out of joy...
'Ye Gena Chewata' is usually played by youngsters. In former years, the game neither had specific player numbers or a set duration. The game which started at dawn might continue with the help of moonlight.
I saw the game played the traditional way on top of Magdala - Emperor Tewodros II's old mountain fortress in Amhara - on Christmas morning four years ago. Yesterday, it has set teams, timed play, even referees with whistles.
It was all great, but a little low key. The crowds were relatively small. And everywhere else on Jan Meda, hundreds of young men in Manchester United shirts were ignoring the festivities and getting on with Ethiopia's real national sport - not so traditional football.
See more pics of the sports on Flickr.
Posted by aheavens at January 8, 2007 4:30 AM