Genna

For Lalibela visitors and pilgrimages, the month of January, is a special time to see the festival “Genna Ethiopian Christmas”; legend for the fact that both Jesus Christ and King Lalibela were born at the same time on 07 January. In Lalibela 11 monolithic churches carved out of the red volcanic stone in the 12th century, and now a World Heritage Site are thronged by pilgrims every Christmas. Because of differences between Western and Ethiopian calendars and traditions, Ethiopians celebrate that holiday on what Westerners know as January 7 in the courtyard below, two dozen priests formed a tight circle with two drummers in the center and began chanting a hymn to the priests above, who responded in kind. “The courtyard priests represent the world’s people, and the priests high above represent the angels,” “Their singing is a symbol of the unity between heaven and earth.” The event continues for two hours, their movements and voices swelling in intensity. Many of those high above slipped into ecstatic trances, closing their eyes as they swayed.

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