We can’t help but to get swept away with the Christmas spirit. The tree is up and decorated, the festive jumpers are out, and Christmas songs are filling the air. 2017 has been Project Waterfall’s most successful year to date, and with support from coffee shops nationwide we have reached over 4,000 people in 5 countries with clean drinking water.
Before we are all off to celebrate Christmas with our friends and family, we thought we’d take a look at how Christmas is celebrated in some of the coffee growing countries we work with.
As a majority Orthodox Christian nation, Christmas in Ethiopia is a big deal. One of the first things you will notice if you spent your holidays here though, is that Christmas isn’t celebrated on the 25th December! Ethiopia is one of the oldest nations in Africa and still follows the ancient Julian calendar, which means Christmas falls on 7th January.
In Amharic, the word used for Christmas is Ganna. Those celebrating Ganna will fast for the 40 days leading up to 7th January (this does not apply to the elderly or very young, new mothers and those too sick to fast). During Ganna, families take Mass in church, and the fast is broken with a huge amount of delicious food, including injera, a sourdough type flatbread, thick Wats (stews) of vegetables and meats, and sometimes eggs.
Celebrations continue 12 days after Ganna with Timkat, a three-day celebration which commemorates the baptism of Christ. Traditional church services are led by priests in red and white robes reciting ceremonial chants during the long services. Throughout this celebratory period, Ethiopians enjoy a game also named Ganna, which is similar to hockey and played with a ball and wooden stick.
Though Ethiopian traditions during Ganna remain very much rooted in the religious aspects of the time of year, family and community also play a huge role in bringing this celebration to life.
In Kenya, Christmas is a time to be with family, and many Kenyans who live in larger urban areas will return to their family’s village for a big get together. That sounds familiar to us!
Another similarity that we may recognise within Kenyan traditions is the midnight Mass, consisting of poems, carols, dancing and prayers. While we may consider getting a goodnight’s sleep at the end of midnight Mass, that’s when the party really begins for a Kenyan Christmas, known as Krismasi in Swahili, one of the many languages spoken in Kenya.
Children in Kenya also believe in Santa, but Santa ditches the reindeer for something a bit more appropriate for the climate. Children wouldn’t be surprised to see Santa cruise up on a camel!
Kenyan Christmas decorations are more climate appropriate; with a lack of our familiar pine tree, you might instead find Cyprus trees decorated on the streets of Nairobi. Churches and homes will be decorated with green leaves and flowers, as well as more modern, colourful balloons and sometimes tinsel.
On the other side of the world, Christmas in Nicaragua is a day filled with song, dance, food and fireworks. Nicaraguan celebrations at this time of year are tied to a lot of traditions, some worldwide and some related to the country’s culture and history. Christmas officially begins on the 7th December with La Purisima, a celebration of the conception of The Blessed Mother. People will set up alters that are decorated with small white flowers from the madroño tree, sing songs and prayers, and some family members will fire Carage Cerada (firecrackers) as early as 4:30AM.
La Purisma, celebrated throughout the holiday season, is closely linked to La Griteria, kickstarted at 6PM on the 7th December with yelling and even more fireworks. Neighbours will get together to visit other alters, sing traditional songs, drink and exchange gifts. La Griteria will last until there are no more gifts to give away, or until the streets have no singers left.
On Christmas day streets are filled with decorations and Christmas carols. The day is spent with family and celebrated with lots of food, song and dance. A traditional Christmas meal consists of stuffed chicken, baked bread, nacatamal (a dish similar to Mexican tamales) and rice. Though Nicaraguan Christmas traditions may be based on Catholic celebrations, one of the most important aspects of Christmas here is family and celebrating the communities they live in.
Even though there are a lot of different traditions and ways of celebrating, the holidays are always about time with the family and eating plenty of good food. While some of the traditions look very different on the surface, the spirit remains the same: we all love celebrating with those we love most. Wherever you are celebrating the holidays this year, and whatever traditions you have, we hope you have a Heri ya Krismasi, Melikam Gena, Feliz Navidad and a Merry Christmas.