The Birth of Our Lord and Savior Eyesus Kristos
In the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church the Feast of the Birth of Our Lord and Savior Eyesus Kristos which is 'Lidet', also known as the "Incarnation of Eyesus Kristos" has been celebrated on Tahisas 29 (January 7) in three of the evangelical years (Matthew, Mark and Luke) and on Tahisas 28 (January 7) in the evangelical year of John. According to the Ethiopian Church, the 5,500-year period from the beginning of Adam to Our Lord Eyesus Kristos' birth was counted down to zero. When the year 5500 arrived at zero, Our Lord Eyesus Kirstos's birth took place on Tuesday, Tahisas 29 E.C (January 7) at midnight. From Adam to Noah is 2256 years; from Noah to Moses is 1588 years; from Moses to Solomon is 593 years; and from Solomon to Christ is 1063. All together totaling 5500 years.
“Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Emmanuel”
The story of the Birth of Our Lord and Savior Eyesus Kristos is wonderfully told in the Holy Scriptures, mainly in Matthew 1:18-25 and in Luke 2:1-20. On Tahisas 29/January 7, at midnight, the King and the true Sheppard of the world is born in a manger, in Bethlehem in the land of Judea, to remove the sins of humankind as the prophet Micah said:
“But you, Bethlehem Ephrata, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are of old, from ancient times.”
The city of Bethlehem symbolized the Church, that is why every one of us must find ourselves in the church on the day of Lidet as the Sheppard said:
“Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about” There, they went and found Christ in a manger with His mother.
Lidet is also known as “Genna”. The word “Genna” came from the word Gennana, meaning “imminent", and the "greatest”. This expresses the coming of the true King and the freeing of mankind from sin. As the three wise men said:
“Where is he that is born King of the Jews? For we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him”
Man was living under condemnation for 5,500 years due to the sin that Adam committed and there was enmity between man and angels. But, when Christ was born, the two reconcile and sung together to praise the incarnated God:
“Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace, good will toward men!”
On the Feast of the Birth of Our Lord and Savior Eyesus Kristos, gift giving was never part of the Orthodox tradition. Let us be reminded that we have already been given the greatest gift, which is the gift of salvation by our Lord:
“But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name.”
St. Yared Lidet hymn
“During the Birth of Our Lord and Savior Eyesus Kristos, the mountains become the bread of life; wild trees bear the fruit of blessings and the water of the sea becomes milk and honey”.
From this hymn we can understand that as a result of the Birth of Our Lord and Savior both living and non-living things spent all the day in peace and cheerfulness. Angels and humans sang together about peace.
The Story of the Magi - The Book of Maṣḥafe Kebur (መጽሐፈ ክቡር)
"Maṣḥafe Kebur" means "The Book of The Honoured One". The book of Maṣḥafe Kebur was recently translated into Amharic from ancient manuscripts written in Ge’ez. It reveals the story of the Magi, the three wise men who visited the scene of the nativity. According to the Maṣḥafe Kebur, Ethiopian kings traveled from different parts of ancient Ethiopia to present the gifts to Eyesus Kristos and His Mother to fulfill the prophecy of Magi sages. The first wise man was Agoja-Jabon; with him were three kings, namely Abol, Tona and Baraka. The second was Magal who had with him Kings Makdas, Awra, and Murno. The third wise man was Agabon who was accompanied by Kings Hajabon, Abulsalam and Arstatalu. It took two years for the sovereigns to arrive safely in Jerusalem. To this day in Ethiopian household coffee is served three times in memory of the three kings: Abol, Tona and Baraka, with the servings named after each. These three kings knew how to tell the time and the year by observing the stars and the moon.
YeGenna Chewata - የገና ጨዋታ
"Genna Chewata" means Genna play. In Ethiopia on this day after finishing the church ceremony, and especially in the rural areas, children would go out to the field and play game called Genna Chewata. Genna is played between two youth teams and is similar to field hockey. It involves a curved stick with players trying to knock a wooden ball into a small hole in the ground. It is a time of rejoicing.
Yeferas Guks - የፈረስ ጉግስ
“Yeferas Guks” is in reference to horse riding battle skills, which is another game played on this day mostly by rural men. In this game players sit on horseback, shooting ceremonial lances at each other to impress spectators with their charges and defensive tactics.
Ethiopian, Egyptian-Coptic and Gregorian Calendars
The seven to eight year gap between the Ethiopian and Gregorian calendars results from the date at which the Angel Gabriel announced to the Holy Virgin Mariam that she was going to conceive Our Lord and Savior Eyesus Kristos. In 525 AD the monk and scholar, Dionysius Exiguus, claimed that the previously believed date of the Annunciation (and hence the birth of Our Lord and Savior Eyesus Kristos) was incorrect and he proposed a new date that was between seven and eight years earlier than the previous one. This new date was eventually adopted by the Roman Catholic church, but the Eastern Orthodox Church including the Ethiopian Orthodox Church did not accept Dionysius’s calculations and retained and believed that the original date of the Annunciation was the correct one.
The Gregorian calendar is slightly inaccurate in the measurement of the solar year because the calendar dates regress almost one day per century. So the calendar was 10 days out of synchronization with the seasons. To correct this inaccuracy, after a number of attempts, in 1582 Pope Gregory XIII ordered that 4th of October was to be followed by 15th of October by dropping 10 days and reestablished the consistency of the solar and calendar years. This reformation led to what is known as the Gregorian calendar.
The Ethiopian year consists of 365 days, divided into twelve months of thirty days each, plus one additional month of five days (six in leap years). Ethiopian New Year's Day falls on September 11 and ends the following September 10, according to the Gregorian (Western) calendar. Some scholars believe the Ethiopian calendar system was copied from the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria. The Ethiopian Orthodox Church claims that though the calendar systems appear similar with that of the Alexandrian church, the Ethiopian calendar was not an import but evolved to its present status with input from sister Eastern Christian churches. Besides, the two calendars differ with regard to the saints days and the time of observing them. The calculation of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church fasting dates are based on the book of “Abushakere” which was written by Abune Demetrose.
May the Light of His birth fill us with Joy forever, Amen!