Melcam Gena! “Merry Christmas!” Today is Christmas day in Ethiopia, and I have to tell you the story of two of the best gifts I’ve ever received.
Because they are both Ethiopian.
It was New Year’s Day in Ethiopia, September, 2002.
In the rest of the world it was actually 2009.
For your information, Ethiopia follows the old style Julian calendar that Julius Caesar started in 46 B.C. (hence the name ‘Julian.’)
His calendar was used internationally until Pope Gregory XIII introduced an improved calendar.
Because the Roman system miscalculated the length of the solar year by 11 minutes, through the centuries the church liturgical dates fell out of sync with the natural seasons.
“This concerned Gregory because it meant that Easter, traditionally observed on March 21, fell further away from the spring equinox with each passing year.”
Some Protestants suspected the Gregorian calendar as a Catholic plot so although Catholic countries like Spain and Italy changed to the new system in 1582, England held on to the Julian calendar until 1752.
Ethiopia, being a strong Orthodox country, never incorporated Pope Gregory’s reforms.
So . . . that explains why Christmas Day in Ethiopia is today, January 7, and their new year begins in our September.
Now back to my story.
Like I said, it was New Year’s Day in Ethiopia. Jake and I had been living in Africa for two years.
The best part of living there was getting to know Ethiopians, working with them building a camp place and doing programs together.
E. was the appointed director of the camp programs, and we quickly came to appreciate him for his jovial spirit and his leadership gifts.
We felt so honored when E. and his beautiful wife invited us for the New Year’s feast at their apartment. I knew it would be spicy doro wat (chicken stew) that takes two days to prepare.
When we arrived, E. welcomed us in the door, handing me a common plastic bag, stuffed full with something white. Jake had a white-filled bag, too. E. directed us to his small bedroom and told us to go in there and change.
Oh, my, goodness. He gave me an Ethiopian dress and shawl, made from soft gauzy cotton with borders of gold and black threads woven into traditional patterns and a beautiful embroidered cross down the front . . . the dress many Ethiopian women wear on special days.
After the meal, still in our special clothes, Jake, E, and I went to the airport to pick-up a young man from our camp staff, who we’d sent to Kenya for a leadership conference.
I was dressed like all the other women in the warehouse waiting area, in their special clothes, and it was the first time in Ethiopia that it made me happy for others to look and stare at me. I smiled back, saying, “Abesha libs conjo neow.” “Ethiopian clothes are beautiful.”
What a wonderful and generous gift from E.
The second, and much greater gift, was given to me – to our whole family actually – at our Daughter #4’s wedding in 2012 when a handsome and faith-filled young man – that same young man we’d picked up at the airport four years earlier – became our ‘son’.
What a wonderful and generous gift from God.
Now, if you will excuse me, I need to get our Ethiopian clothes out of the cedar trunk and get dressed, to go down the road and have some doro wat that our Ethiopian son has made.
PS Grand-daughter #5 is another precious half-Ethiopian gift!