BY TEWODROS KASSA
Ethiopia has numerous unique tangible and intangible cultural and religious heritages registered under the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) prestigious list. Among the many, the Rock-Hewn Churches of Lalibela are the prominent Ethiopian heritages inscribed under the UNESCO list. The principal edifices of the Rock- Hewn Churches of Lalibela that are included in the World Heritage List are the Churches of Medhane Alem, Maryam, Ammanuel, Giorgis and Golgota-Mikail. Lalibela is a high place of Ethiopian Christianity, and a religious centre for followers of Christianity and it is still a place of pilgrimage and devotion site for Christians globally. The area is famous for its 11 monolithic churches hewn out of rock.
Genna, Ethiopian Christmas, is celebrated throughout Ethiopia warmly. However, the celebration is more colourful and magnificent at Lalibela; and takes very special spectacles than the other parts of the country.
Accordingly, the celebration of Genna (Ethiopian Christmas) is marked by various activities such as horse racing and authentic folk dancing. At Lalibela, Genna is celebrated in a very attractive ways because it is also the birth date of King Lalibela- a king who ruled the country at the beginning of the 13th century; and a Saint attributed for craving the famous monolithic Rock-Hewn churches.
In the rural areas a popular game which looks like European Hockey but is typically Ethiopian is conducted between two youth teams. The game is named after the festival and is called “YeGenna Chewata”.
Genna festivities begin early in the day, as early as 6:00 am when people gather in churches in mass. For the clergy, it has begun much earlier, 43 days before, with the fasting period leading up to Genna. This pensive fasting period is required of the clergy and is known as the fast of the prophets. The fast of advent is carried out to cleanse the body and soul in preparation for the day of the Birth of Christ.
The mystery of the Rock-Hewn Churches of Lalibela architectural design, durability, sacredness, historical recordings, among others makes the church to be one of the leading center of religious pilgrims in Ethiopia. Ethiopian Genna is the peak season where a largest number of international and local tourists’ arrival is registered in Lalibela.
The Rock-Hewn Churches of Lalibela generate the largest tourism revenue to the country through attracting numerous local and international tourists.
Obviously, the global pandemic COVID-19 has been impacting the tourism sector negatively. For this same reason, the income of the people Lalibela town was hugely affected because the number of visitors to the area has been dwindled. Even the invasion of the terrorist Tigray Peoples’ Liberation Front (TPLF) remnants against the Amhara and Afar states in the northern part of the country impacted the community hugely.
Therefore, the Great Ethiopians Homecoming Challenge during this holiday seasons will immensely contribute to stimulate the country’s tourism.
Amhara State Culture and Tourism Bureau Head Tahir Mohamed told Ethiopian Press Agency (EPA) that the main purpose of the Great Ethiopians Homecoming Challenge is to show the tragedy and destruction committed by the terrorist group to the Ethiopian Diasporas and friends of Ethiopia and expose it to the international community.
Moreover the visitors will play their part in rebuilding the destroyed infrastructure by the terrorist remnants, he added.
In addition, celebrating Genna in Lalibela and Ethiopian Timket in Gondar with the Ethiopian Diasporas and friends of Ethiopia immensely contributes to stimulate the economies of the tourism-based communities that have been severely weakened by the COVID-19 pandemic.
In sum, the Ethiopian Genna (Christmas) reflects enormous manifestations of people taking part on the celebration. More than hundreds of thousands people annually flow to the spiritually highly regarded town of Lalibela to see the Ethiopian Genna celebration. Everyone eagerly awaits the annual Lalibela Genna celebration. Every Ethiopian is expected to visit Lalibela at least once in lifetime. In most parts of the country the one who visited the Rock Hewn Churches of Lalibela is considered to be sacred and maintain life in heaven after death. That is why people gave credits to the visitors and requests the Almighty God to enable them visit the church and sanctify themselves.
Today, a large number of Ethiopian Diasporas and friends of Ethiopia have already arrived home and marching to the homeland following the government’s Great Ethiopians Homecoming Challenge. Numerous Diasporas and friends of Ethiopia have already arrived in Addis Ababa to celebrate the Ethiopian Genna holiday and Ethiopian Timket (Epiphany).
Today, Ethiopians and tourists are attending the spectacular Genna celebration warmly in Lalibela.
The Ethiopian January 7/2022