Christmas and Eritreans celebrating it. By Aklilu Lijam

Christmas and Eritreans celebrating it: 

By Aklilu Lijam

(As part of our BTW fun stories)


One of my friends asked me, “Do we say Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, or is it Happy New year and Merry Christmas?” At first I was a bit puzzled, but then I started smiling as I understood what my friend wanted to say. Then he quickly added, “Perhaps it should be ‘Merry Christmas, Happy New Year and Merry Christmas again!” I started laughing loudly admiring how he came up with this noteworthy saying as I realized that we Eritreans have two Christmases to celebrate. Have you never thought about it before? It is true that the Eritrean society celebrates Christmas twice in a space of 14 days, one that is on the 25th of December and the other on the 7th of January.

Christmas is a very popular holiday in Eritrea. Christians who follow the Geez calendar are the main ones that celebrate January 7th of every year. The Christmas celebrated on December 25 was not as popular as it is today. Even today, it is young people in the urban areas that celebrate it more. The elderly tend to be more attached to the Christmas celebrated in January, based on the Geez Calendar.

Speaking of the Geez calendar, some people refer to it as the Ethiopian calendar, but I think the correct term should be Geez calendar. I have read that, Eritrea is among the first countries which embraced the great world religions Christianity and Islam. I would like to hear some opinion on this as I have heard the church based Geez calendar and Christianity itself was introduced first in Eritrea before the rest of Ethiopia became Christian.

What’s the best thing about Christmas?

Christmas celebrations generally include attending church services, carol singing, preparing special meals, decorating the Christmas tree, exchanging gifts, and viewing a seeing play. Christmas day celebrations are especially looked forward to by children, because according to the beliefs children get gifts from Santa Claus or Babbo Natale as is called in Eritrea, name being inherited from the Italians.

By the way, Christmas day is generally a public holiday in many countries including India.

Some of my favorite things about celebrating Christmas, especially back home in Eritrea, were going shopping and doing groceries. I remember I used to go with my dad to the open marketplace (Edaga Hamus) to buy a sheep or a goat for the holiday. People usually check an animal before purchasing to ensure it provides enough meat. There is no fixed price for the animals; hence, both buyers and sellers negotiate until they reach what they think is a fair price. Making a deal is a long and funny process. I remember as a kid, the usual price of a goat or sheep used to be less than 100 birr.  The good old days! However, during the Derg occupation and when Asmara was under siege the prices of animals skyrocketed and became more than 400 birr for a single goat or sheep. Mind you, a decent job at that time was paying 300 to 400 birr per month across Eritrea. There was this popular joke at that time; a buyer chooses a better looking goat among the herd and asks the seller how much it cost. The seller responded, “ARBATEN FEREKAN” which means four hundred fifty birr. The buyer would respond sarcastically saying, “I did not ask you for the time, I think I asked you for the price of the goat!”

I believe we are quite lucky to have two Christmas dates to celebrate. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year and Merry Christmas again Everybody!

Posted in Posts.


  1. ብሩኽ፡ሓዲሽ፡በዓል፡ዓመት፡ንኽሎም፡ደቂ፡መሓበር።
    ብእዛ ፡ሓዳስ፡ዓመት ፡
    ምስ ኩሎም እሕዋትናን ፡ፈተዉትናን ፡ ፍቅሪ ፡
    አብ ፡ ናብራና ፡ ሰላም ፡
    ንትምኒትና፡ፍጻሜ ፡
    ንስራሕና፡ፍረ ፡
    ምስ፡ሰባት፡ምርድዳእ ፡
    ክተምጸኣልና ፡
    ንኩላትና፡ናይ ልቢ፡ትምኒተይ፡እዩ።

  2. 🤣🤣🤣እወኒ :: ሕጂ ተዘኪሩኒ :: ቅርቃስ እንብሎ ዐልና :: ኣብ መድገት ዓይላይ ወድ መምህር ገብሩ ሓቆላ ቅዳሴ ልደት ክም ታማ እትላ ኣፍ ልዳት እንደ ገኣ ሀይባና :ዐላ :: ከረመሎ : ባሽኩቲ ( በቅሳዊት) ቢስኩት : ተመር ካሳላ ዎፉል ዐላ :: ካላ ቅርስቃስ ገሎሆም ምንላ እደና ዛዕ ለቡሉ ሰበት ዓለው ግሩም እትላ ሕብጥና ነሓብዖ ዎክ እግል ምንዕብካ( ምዕባይካ) ተሀይቦ :: ለዐቢ ልደፈር ኢዓላ :: 🤣🤣🤣🤣ከርካ ልብዛሕ ገረዝግሄር ኣፍቃድካና ::

  3. Dear Gabe,
    Thank you for your encouraging and kind words! I really admire ኣያታተይ such as you, Mussie and Dr. Yegin for all your comments uplifting my BTW articles. And thanks again for your story about exchanging gifts in Gheleb during Christmas. 🙏🙏🙏

  4. Dear Dr. Yegin wed Habtes, I am always honored by your comments and thank you for galvanizing my article by adding this beautiful joke of yours about the goat market. 🤣 As Mussie said hope the Barzellette (jokes) will continue pouring out also from other members! Many Thanks! 🙏🙏🙏

  5. Thank you, Aklilu, for your continued contribution to the website. Your BTW articles are both entertaining and informative. I am enjoying them. Please keep it up. I also thank Dr. Yegin and Mussie for their response. I just wanted to add line or so to Dr. Yegin’s comment ( joke but ). Although we did not have the opportunity of exchanging gifts in Gheleb, growing up, we used to receive gift in the form of candies, cookies and dates, wrapped up in a small paper bag, on Christmas eve lining up at front of the church after service. That was something that were looking forward to as kids. We used to compare our bags and sometimes exchanged candies for cookies or dates.
    Again, thank you all.

    Gabe Bekit

  6. 🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣 ዶክቶር የጊን እሊ ክሉ እብ ሰላዲ ልኢልትረከብ ባርዘለቶታት: ጆክስ: ሂጋ ደኣል እታያ ሕቡዕ ምንና ዐላ? ሓረምኩና ምኑ ::ኣናማ ናይላ ጥቅስ ምሰት ልደት ኦሮ መስሓቅ ሑና እት ክል ልደት በዐል ጣቅሳ ለዐላ ” እሲት ሎጥ ፍቃዶ” ልብል ዐላ ከላኣዳም ክሉ ክርፍ ልብል ዐላ እብ ሰሓቅ ::ከምቲ ቅድሚ ሕጂ ዚበልክዎ እዚ ንምኽዋኑ: ባይ ዜወይ : በነገራችን ላይ: እላ ኢእቤ ኣርእስቲ ነቶም ፍልጠቶምን ዘስሕቅ ነገራትን ሓቢኦም ዘለውን ዘለዋንን ደቂ ማሕበር ከስሕት ተባሂሉ ዚተመርጸ ኣርእስቲ እዩ ኢለ ነይረ :: ሓውና ኣክሊሉ ድማ ብግንባር ቀደም ኮይኑ ነቲ ሓዊ የሳውረልና ስለ ዘሎ እንሆ ሞቕና ኣዝዩ ዘስሕቕ ባርዘሌቶታት ሰሚዒና :: ከሰልፍ እግል ሑና ኣክሊሉ ሓምድ ሕንቅጥቅጥ ኣታ እትና ዎሓቆሁ ክትርላ ሕንቅጥቅጥ መምህርዬ ዶክቶር የጊን ሓብዑ ምንና ለዓላ መስሓቃት ከፍካፋ እልና :: 🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣

  7. ፍቱይ፡አክሊሉ፡ወድ፡ልጃም፡ወድ፡እሽሓቅ፡
    ዎሮት፡ጋር፡በዓል፡ልደት፡ክም፡ቃርባ፡ንዳሌ፡እሉ፡ለዓልና፡ድሮ፡ልደት፡እት፡ቀደም፡ሙሉእ፡መሓበር፡እንዴ፡ቃናጽና፡እብ፡ትግረ፡ወይ፡ትግርኞ፡ወይ፡እንግሊዝ፡ምን፡ክታብ፡ቅዱስ፡እብ፡ረኣስና፡ ጥቅስ፡ነሀይብ፡ዓልና፡፡ ቃላል፡ዎክሉ፡ላለአምራ፡ጥቅስ፡”ረቢ፡በርሀት፡ትግባእ፡ቤላ፡ዎ፡በርሀት፡ገብአት” ዓለት፡፡እሎም፡ዕቢ፡ላበለው፡ርይም፡ላትቤ፡ጥቅስ፡ጣቅሶ፡ዓለው፡፡ ዎሮት፡ሑና፡ስሙ፡ሰሚ፡ኢላትሓዜ፡እንዴ፡ቃንጻ፡ቅሩብ፡እግል፡ልትፈነን፡በሀለት፡መን፡አክልዬ፡እግል፡ሊበል፡ሓዛ፡ዎ፡እብ፡ህግያ፡እንግሊዝ፡እግል፡ልጥቃስ፡ሓዛ፡ዎ፡ክእና፡ቤላ፡ “The Lord is my Casford” ህቱ፡ዲ፡ “The Lord is my Shepherd”, እግል፡ሊበል፡ሓዜ፡ዓላ፡ዎ፡ሕና፡ዲ፡እግል፡ረዪም፡አውካድ፡መሳሓቂ፡ራካብና፡፡
    አክሊሉ፡ምስል፡አቡሁ፡እንዴ፡ጌሳ፡ጠሊት፡ልዛበው፡ዓለው፡ቤላ፡አማን፡ቱ፡ጠሊት፡ላኢትትሓረድ፡እቱ፡ በዓል፡ዋላ፡በዓል፡እንዴ፡ገብኣ፡ልትረኤና፡ኢዓላ።አዜ፡እግል፡ሰሓቅ፡ዎ፡ህጅክ፡እት፡ዕዳጋ፡ዓጣል፡ላጀረት፡ሓለት፡እግል፡አትሀጅከኩም፡አፍሱሕ፡እልዬ።
    እት፡መከለሲ፡ናይ፡ዮም፡ልእከቼ፡አብ፡ሓቴ፡ጥቅስ፡ናይ፡ልደት፡እግል፡እከልስ፡እፈቴ፡ዎ፡እላ፡ጥቅስ፡እት፡ ትምቢት፡እሳያስ፡ምዕራፍ፡፱፡ዕልብ፡፮፡ዎ፡፯፡ሀሌት

  8. Thank you Mussie hiewye ! I always admire your words of encouragement! This gives me more energy to continue writing.

  9. ፍቱይ ኣክሊሉ : እትሊ እብ ሰበት በዐል ልደት ክቱብካ ልደት ዲብ ዓድና ከኣፎ እብ ፋርሓት ዎ ቃርደት ክም ትትበዐል ኣፍቃድከኒ :: ከእብ ሓሳብ ዲብ ” ዐድና” ሓልፎ ለሀለኮ እንደ ገኣ ልትሳማዓኒ ሀላ:: ስርበብ ( nostalgic) ኣተኒ :: ካሓምዴ ልብጻሓካ ዎ ካራርዮ ምንካ ::( ሀባና በስ) ::

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