I just celebrated Ethiopian Christmas (Lidet) on Monday January 7, 2013. Just like in America, Christmas celebrations begin on Christmas Eve. After eating dinner at a restaurant in town, I arrived home and was planning to watch a movie and relax. Soon after I sat down I heard some kids let themselves into my compound through the gate. As I opened the front door to investigate, I was greeted by a group of half a dozen boys with sticks. They began banging them on the ground and chanting. It’s a Christmas tradition here for boys to go around and ask for money handouts with this chant song. As usual, I had no idea this was going to happen so gave them gum and candy, Halloween style, instead of money. As soon as they left they were replaced by another group coming for more. I think a few of them were from the first group (coming for more candy) so I called them out on it. After a few of these envoys, I felt a bit scrooge-like and locked my gate because I ran out of candy. I felt guilty so went for an evening stroll to see what was going on around town. Boys were out everywhere soliciting money, by chanting and banging their special Christmas sticks. Right when I got to the main street, the power went out. The whole town flickered a few times from the resulting power surges like a dying beast before the moonless night took the town. The trusty “torchlight” on my mobile phone lead me home where I was soon dreaming of sugar plums being beaten by sticks – just another Mefloquine induced hallucination.
On Christmas morning I woke up for a coffee date at a local house/café. Kubra told me to come at 2 pm (what you would call 8am) which I thought was early but went anyway. She was home but didn’t seem ready for business. She invited me in regardless and began gathering everything for a bunna (coffee) ceremony. She gave me some left over dulet (intestine stew) to hold me over until the coffee was ready. It was pretty disgusting but I managed to get a few bites down. On my last bite I bit into something very crunchy and hard. Bone or dirt…or both. She could hear the crunch and laughed in embarrassment. I was done after that and said I was too full for more (a lie) but that stuff was intense. Anyway the proceeding bunna ceremony was really nice. Worth the questionable dulet? Probably not, but it was fun talking with her in Tigrigna and drinking coffee. I thanked her and made her accept 5 birr (about 0.30 USD) for the 2 hour ceremony and went home.
After a bit of house cleaning I went to lunch at another friend’s house. Kidana lives in another tiny one room house similar to Kubra’s. He’s not married but his sister cooked for the holiday. We all squatted around on tiny little uncomfortable stools for lunch, which was unfortunately more dulet (intestine stew) and k’ai wat (spicy red goat stew). This dulet wasn’t bad, or maybe I’m getting used to it. We had a few glasses of special Christmas sewah to wash down the food before we finished with a bunna ceremony. I think I’ve described Sewah (also known as Tella in Amharic) in pervious emails. It’s a pretty raw alcoholic drink made from malted barley. People call it “local beer” but the Germans in charge of enforcing beer purity laws would be rolling in their graves at the name. It tastes like compost and looks like swamp water with lots of little floaters in it. However, it’s really not too bad once you spit out the twigs. Regardless, it was nice sharing with these two different hosts who had so little to share. It’s just another example of the hospitality that has been extended to me by my new neighbors in Abi Adi.
Next I went to meet up with Thor, one of the other Peace Corps volunteers in Abi Adi, to walk to another “program” at a mutual friend’s house. We hung out on the patio and talked with Getatcho and his brother, both highly educated and articulate guys, while we drank Mes, Sewah, and Uzo. We ate some really good Tibbsi (goat stew) made from the goat I’m posing with in the attached photo. There was another bunna ceremony before we went to the final “program” of the day at one of Thor’s friend’s houses. Ginet welcomed us into her family’s compound for more sewah, dulet and k’ai wat. Bunna too of course. After that, we were struggling with the food so we made a pit stop at Thor’s house for some water and a second wind.
Finally we headed downtown for some beers in the town. The bar was packed with celebrating Ethiopian dudes and even a few females (a very rare occurrence). The dudes just dance and dance and dance with each other, since women are so rare in bars, but have a great time regardless. Then the power went out and the music stopped so we decided to finally call it a night. Way too much sewah, mes, bunna, intestines, and injera for the day. To summarize, 3 different dulets, 4 coffee ceremonies (3 little cups of coffee each), and way too much sewah; all in all, a very memorable Ethiopian Christmas!