Letter from Ethiopia #12

By Dandew Serbello - January 5, 2002


Dear brothers and sisters,

Pardon the delay, I have been trying to access you all from wherever I had been outside Addis but communication was not technically possible. Some families are feeling the pinch of what happens in the US post Sep.11th. Remittances have dwindled and the Ethiopian Xmas shopping spree is nowhere to be seen.

In fact some families have started coming back to sweet home. Everybody is welcome home, good old Ethiopia albeit itís dismembered status. Families are worried as usual about you people. There are a number of rumors and stories being told and gullible families are confused what to believe. I am sure some of you must have heard about it and have called home to tell your families to rest assured.

How many people have lost their jobs including Ethiopians in America? The impact has affected the domestic economy to a certain degree. You know that the country is getting foreign exchange from remittance next to her main exports like coffee, hides and skin. And when these remittances dwindle, not only are families affected but the nation also feels the pinch. And this years Xmas is feared to be as cool as the weather these days. (Yezendro gena yidebral) Let me bring back some recollections about how we used to celebrate the Orthodox Xmas here in rural and urban areas.

This time of the year is harvest time and the majority of Ethiopians have plenty of food around. Incidentally, this yearís harvest is so bountiful that the farmer is learning to store food the hard way, meaning grains are not marketable and peasants seem to be unable to pay their credits. Add to this the plummeting coffee price and the dwindling foreign exchange earning or saving and you can make your guesses where we are up to. And the farmer has either to sell his produce cheap or store it if he has some Birr to settle his input debts. When there is plenty of food to go around there are a number of feasts and parties to throw and enjoy including Xmas. Dabo or home-made bread is usually associated with Genna, as we locally term Christmas. It must too big and round enough for the whole neighborhood. Dabo is baked in every tukuls and children amuse themselves at throwing pieces at each other like people elsewhere in the world do so with snow balls. We have our snow balls of bread. The other remarkable aspect of the celebration is the Genna game for which I will borrow the word hockey to describe it to foreigners. Except for a few differences in the rules it is almost the same game.  But we have no snow in our country so we play it on the green field. In Addis it is Polo played at Janmeda (Jan Hoy Medda) every year on Xmas day.

Locally brewed tella  is served in every house and animals are slain for the feast. In Addis this part of Genna is the most attractive aspect. People in the neighborhood raise fund to buy a bull or an ox for 4, 6, 8, 10 or 12 people to share the meat and carry it home. There is fun in the process. Special organ of the animal is cut and chopped for toast or raw to be eaten at the site downing it with local areki. Some people have special skills of slicing meat carving it in a twisting angle with a sharp knife up their lips as though they would cut off their noses in the process. It is scary, right? Wrong. It is one of the expressions of the Ethiopian manhood. A man that does not eat meat raw and fresh is not worth his salt we say. And there are millions of us worth our salt. We are the first in cattle rearing in Africa and the tenth in the world and there is no wonder if we know our beastsí taste! Organic and sweet but small in size as they are. We have aplenty to drink both import or locally brewed. We have no worry to buy new dresses thanks to the Chinese garments that have dumped our markets and thrown most of our businessmen out of the game! Any ways we are only a week or so away from our version of Christmas.  God willing, my next letter may be on how it came to pass. Happy Christmas to you all and a happy New Year to my readers abroad following the Gregorian calendar.

Dear readers, I would like to end this letter by telling you some good news about the new proclamation issued last night exclusively about Ethiopians in the Diaspora whether they are nationals by birth or not. I shall in due course write the details but for now I think it may suffice to tell you that any Ethiopian forced to leave his country during the previous regimes can now enter his country without any hulla bulla of visas. All Ethiopians can build, bequeath, sell or transfer property in any way they like. This is with the intention of creating good opportunities for investment for Ethiopians in their own country. 

Merry X-mass and Cheers

Dandew Serbello from Sidist Kilo



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