ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia
Ethiopian Christians on Saturday celebrated Christmas in a festive and joyous atmosphere.
Burgeoning star-rated hotels and malls that dotted the main streets of the capital city, Addis Ababa displayed colorful Christmas trees and lights.
On the eve, an overnight mass was held at churches. All Christian denominations in Ethiopia -- Orthodox, Catholic, Protestant and Seventh-Day Adventist -- celebrate Christmas on Jan. 7 although elsewhere only Orthodox Christians mark Christmas on this day as opposed to the widely recognized Dec. 25.
"Different Christmas days only means during the first century where communications were backward, people thought Christ was born at the time the news was heralded to them," Deacon Abayneh, a lecturer at the Theology College in Addis Ababa told Anadolu Agency.
"Obviously, the first people to witness the birth of Christ were those in Jerusalem and its environs," he said.
In his Christmas benediction, patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, Abune Mathias emphasized the need to foster peace.
“Every good thing pivots around peace and we should uphold that idea in our hearts in everything we do," the patriarch said.
"We ought to extend a hand of generosity and show compassion to one another."
On Christmas, Ethiopians traditionally bake whole grain breads, make a traditional honey wine called "tej" and prepare largely meat-based dishes. Raw meat (beef or goat meat) is a unique festival treat.
Ethiopia has Africa’s largest Christian community. Ethiopian Orthodox Christians constitute more than 40 percent of the 100 million population.
Ethiopia embraced Christianity during the first century at the time of the Axumite King of Izana, who is among the last of the long list of kings that ruled over Ethiopia’s ancient civilization that is known to have its realm of influence on far wider areas than present day borders, according to historical documents.