Growing in the Eritrean society is exceptionally warm. The holiday season in Eritrea is characterized by the visiting of relatives, rejoicing with neighbors, settling conflicts, forgiving friends and foes and looking forward to a new beginning. The celebrations of this year’s Christmas and New Year may be toned-down due to COVID-19, but I am sure the tradition of making resolutions for the New Year will continue.
Let me tell you about an incident that happened in my family, which a lot of you might have encountered in your families at least once. I once got home excited on Christmas Eve and put a huge box on the table. After asking for my family’s attention, I screamed “Merry Christmas” and took a huge cake and some chocolate bars out of the box. My brothers’ and parents’ faces glowed and they were all smiling except our old lady relative who came to visit from the countryside. She had no idea what we were all excited about. My little brother told her that it was the Christmas Eve and that New Year was a week away. “What in the delusional world are you talking about?” she said angrily.
Unlike the younger generation, our relative, like many from the older generation of our society, does not celebrate Christmas on December 25th. Like many, she celebrates it a week after the New Year following a six-week fasting season.
The older and younger generation celebrate Christmas and New Year on different days although the younger generation tend to celebrate Christmas twice, one On December 25th and another, like my relative, a week after the New Year.
On December 25th, cafes, restaurants, bars and lounges are all decorated in breathtaking lights and Christmas posters. Christmas trees are placed on the sidewalks close to the cafes, like the famous Asmara Sweet Café on Harinet Avenue.
The practice of putting up special decorations for Christmas has a long history. The tradition of erecting a Christmas tree and so many colorful lights and sometimes candles and candies has been practiced for long in our culture too. Usually, Christmas Eve is celebrated in the evening at recreational places with special events and special performances. Christmas lights and banners hung at homes with a Christmas tree placed in a prominent place. Incidentally, during the Christmas season, I usually begged my parents to decorate the Christmas tree and set it up at a prominent place in our house way before Christmas. On Christmas Eve people exchange post cards and gifts to express their joy, friendship and happy wishes.
For devout Christians who follow the Geez calendar it is now the fasting season, which ends a week from the New Year when Christmas is celebrated. After a month and two weeks of fasting, people celebrate Christmas by slaughtering an animal, which is commonly done on religious festivals.
In the Gregorian calendar, New Year’s Eve falls on the seventh day of the Christmas season. New Year’s Eve is celebrated in the evenings at bars, restaurants and other public places in the country. The Eve usually ends with a display of fireworks to welcome the brand new year.
An event has been organized by the Ministry of Information to record performances by Sesina Group, a cultural troupe of the administration of the Eritrean Defense Forces at Beleza, which will be broadcast in celebration of the New Year. The performances highlighted the history of the nation and the unity of its people.
Let’s celebrate Christmas and the New Year by following COVID-19 guidelines.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!!!