Coptic Christians are celebrating Christmas today, January 7, 2018, which is December 25 on the Julian Calendar observed by the Coptic Orthodox Church.
The main Coptic Orthodox Churches in Africa are in Egypt, Ethiopia and Eritrea where they are marking the birth of Jesus Christ.
Since November 25 on the Gregorian Calendar, Coptic Christians have been observing ‘The Holy Nativity Fast’ or ‘Fast of the Prophets’ (Tsome Nebiyat in Ethiopia) which ended on January 6 which is Christmas Eve. They only eat a vegan diet during that period and avoid eating foods containing chicken, beef, milk and eggs.
On Christmas Eve yesterday, all the churches held a special service at night which ended after midnight. Immediately after, the Christmas celebrations begin with a feast and parties.
Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi joined Coptic Christians at the packed Cairo’s newly built Nativity of Christ Cathedral amid high security. He assured them that everything will be done to protect them from attacks by extremists which was rampant in the past year.
In Ethiopia, the Coptic Christmas celebration is called Ganna and everyone holds a candle in church. Men and boys are separated from women and girls and the centre circle is where the priest serves the Holy Communion or Mass. The people walk around the church three times holding the candles.
After the church service, men and boys usually play a game also called ganna. It’s played with a curved stick and a round wooden ball like hockey. They mainly eat a thick spicy stew call “wat” with a flatbread which is used to scoop the stew.
Ethiopian Christmas events are similar in neighbouring Eritrea which also has a large Coptic Christian population.
On 19th January, Coptic Christians will celebrate the baptism of Jesus Christ which is called Timkat. Children will walk to church service on the day in a procession.
Below are some reactions of celebrants and well-wishers on social media.
Wishing all my Coptic and Eastern Orthodox friends celebrating this evening a very happy Christmas! #CopticChristmas pic.twitter.com/WDeWN5oJb9
— Claire Slater (@CV_Slater) January 6, 2018
Merry Christmas to Coptic and Orthodox friends around the world!
— Mona Eltahawy (@monaeltahawy) January 6, 2018
Just a heads up. If you see posts on social media saying “Merry Christmas” we’re not stupid, we’re just Coptic ??♂️
— Philo Ghattas (@PhiloGhattas) January 6, 2018
If your parents aren’t blasting the Nativity litrugy off the sattelite from Egypt on full blast on Christmas Eve morning, is it even Christmas? @Coptic_Problems
— Barbara Mikhail (@Barbara_Mikhail) January 6, 2018
Happy Christmas! Wishing lots of peace and joy to everyone in Egypt and around the world celebrating Coptic Christmas today. ??? pic.twitter.com/PKLJMGv5xU
— British Amb in Egypt (@FCOJohnCasson) January 7, 2018
Pray with Coptic Christians in Egypt as they prepare to celebrate Coptic Christmas Day on Sunday, Jan. 7. We have reports from the field that many Christians in Egypt are reluctant to go to church tomorrow evening, fearing another violent attack. pic.twitter.com/hvwAjGFfGF
— Open Doors USA (@OpenDoors) January 6, 2018
Wishing @BishopAngaelos & all #Coptic faithful & friends who celebrate, a blessed Merry Orthodox Coptic Christmas. In solidarity w the plight of our Coptic brothers #Egypt #NativityFeast #JoyToTheWorld pic.twitter.com/K0Rk9xCxIR
— Euripides Evriviades (@eevriviades) January 7, 2018
Merry Christmas to all my fellow Coptic people! pic.twitter.com/udBj1zfn2O
— Stuff Magid Says (@StuffMagidSays) January 6, 2018