The celebration of Ethiopian Christmas (Leddet or Genna in Amharic) is venerated by several activities such as horse racing, Yegena Chewata (a kind of hockey), Gugs (a kind of polo) and attending mesmerizing church service that goes on throughout the night before the actual holiday.
The celebration of Ethiopian Christmas is more vibrant in the countryside; therefore today’s’ virtual journey aimed at providing a sneak preview of Genna or Leddet festivity at Lalibela. Lalibela is one of the best places to witness and capture Ethiopian holiday spirit.
High in the rocky Lasta Mountains there is an antiquated world with eleven magnificent medieval rock-hewn churches, hidden cellars and caverns, faintly lit hallways was engraved down into the red volcanic rock.
Lalibela, a world heritage site, unquestionably ranks among the greatest religious historical sites in the Christian world. Even though the town attracted tourists since the 16th century, amazingly it still remains unaffected by the modern world. Lalibela is a hub of pilgrimage for many Ethiopian Orthodox Christians and being here for main religious festivals like Leddet is more like a blessing.
Lalibela, originally known as Roha, was the Zagwe dynasty’s capital in the 12th and 13th centuries. The town named after King Lalibela in honoring him for the construction of the churches. According to local tradition, the churches date from around Lalibela’s regime in the 12th or 13th century.
Legend has it that King Lalibela was exiled to Jerusalem in fear of persecution from his half-brother. While enlightened by the buildings in Jerusalem, king Lalibela saw a heavenly dream to build a holy town in Ethiopia.
There is one more interesting fact that makes the celebration of Ethiopian Christmas at Lalibela so extraordinary. It is not only celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ, it is also celebrating the birth of King Lalibela which happens to be on the same day-Tahesa 29 (January 7).