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.