Wednesday, January 9, 2013


Ethiopia (and especially the Ethiopian Orthodox Church) still use the old Julian calendar, so the celebrate Christmas on January 7th, not December 25th! The Christmas celebration in the Ethiopian Orthodox Church is called Ganna. Most people go to Church on Christmas day.
Many people fast (don't eat anything) on their 'Christmas Eve' (6th). At dawn on the morning of Ganna, people get dressed in white. Most people wear a traditional garment called a shamma. It's a thin white cotton piece of cloth with brightly colored stripes across the ends. It's worn like a toga. If you live in a big town or city you might wear 'western' clothes. The early Ganna mass starts at 4am!

The Ethiopian capital city is Addis Ababa. It's a modern city. Most people who live outside big cities live in round house made of mud-plastered walls which have thatched cone-shaped roofs. Sometimes houses in the country are rectangular and made of stone.
The design of Ethiopian Church is similar to the houses. In the country, they are often very old and have been carved out of rock. In cities, modern churches are built in three circles, each within the others.
The choir sings from the outer circle. Everyone who goes to church for the Ganna celebrations is given a candle. The people walk around the church three times in a solemn procession, holding the candles. They then go to the second circle to stand during the service. The men and boys are separated from the women and girls. The center circle is the most important and holy place in the church and is where the priest serves the Holy Communion or mass.

It's also a tradition that one of the Wise Men who visited Jesus came from Ethiopia.
Around the time of Ganna, the men and boys play a game that is also called ganna. It's played with a curved stick and a round wooden ball, a bit like hockey.
Traditional Christmas foods in Ethiopia include wat which is a thick and spicy stew that contains meat, vegetables and sometimes eggs (sounds yummy!). Wat is eaten on a 'plate of injera' - a flat bread. Pieces of the injera are used as an edible spoon to scoop up the wat.
Twelve days after Ganna, on 19th January, Ethiopians start the three day celebration of Timkat. It celebrated the baptism of Jesus. Children walk to church services in a procession. They wear the crowns and robes of the church youth groups that they belong to. Adults wear the shamma. The priests wear red and white robes and carry embroidered fringed umbrellas.

Musical instruments are played during the Timkat procession. The sistrum is a percussion instrument with tinkling metal disks a bit like a vertical tambourine. A makamiya, a long T-shaped prayer stick is used to keep the rhythm and is also used by the priests and a stick to lean on during the long Timkat church service!
Ethiopian men also play a sport called yeferas guks. It's played on horseback and the men throw ceremonial lances at each other (sounds rather dangerous!).
People don't give and receive present during Ganna and Timkat. Sometimes children might be given a small gift of some clothes from their family members. It's more a time for going to church, eating lots and playing games!


   New Year's Eve has always been a time for looking back to the past, and more importantly, forward to the coming year. It’s a time to reflect on the changes we want (or need) to make and resolve to follow through on those changes. This is a list of the ten most popular New Year resolutions.

10. Reorganize Life
   On just about every New Year resolution top ten list, organization can be a very reasonable goal. Whether you want your home organized enough that you can invite someone over on a whim, or your office organized enough that you can find the stapler when you need it, these tips and resources should get you started on the way to a more organized life.

9. Be More Charitable
   A popular, non-selfish New Year’s resolution, volunteerism can take many forms. Whether you choose to spend time helping out at your local library, mentoring a child, or building a house, there are many nonprofit volunteer organizations that could really use your help.

8. Learn Something New
   Have you vowed to make this year the year to learn something new? Perhaps you are considering a career change, want to learn a new language, or just how to fix your computer? Whether you take a course or read a book, you’ll find education to be one of the easiest, most motivating New Year’s resolutions to keep. Challenge your mind in the coming year, and your horizons will expand.

7. Get Out of Debt
   Was money a big source of stress in your life last year? Join the millions of Americans who have resolved to spend this year getting a handle on their finances. It’s a promise that will repay itself many times over in the year ahead.

6. Stop Drinking
   While many people use the New Year as an incentive to finally stop drinking, most are not equipped to make such a drastic lifestyle change all at once. Many heavy drinkers fail to quit cold turkey but do much better when they taper gradually, or even learn to moderate their drinking. If you have decided that you want to stop drinking, there is a world of help and support available.

5. Enjoy Life More
   Given the hectic, stressful lifestyles of millions of people in the world, it is no wonder that “enjoying life more” has become a popular resolution in recent years. It’s an important step to a happier and healthier you!

4. Stop Smoking
   If you have resolved to make this the year that you stamp out your smoking habit, over-the-counter availability of nicotine replacement therapy now provides easier access to proven quit-smoking aids. Even if you’ve tried to quit before and failed, don’t let it get you down. On average, smokers try about four times before they quit for good.

3. Lose Weight
   Weight loss is one of the most popular New Year’s resolutions. Setting reasonable goals and staying focused are the two most important factors in sticking with a weight loss program, and the key to success for those millions of people who made a New Year’s commitment to shed extra pounds.

2. Get Fit
   Regular exercise has been associated with more health benefits than anything else known to man. Studies show that it reduces the risk of some cancers, increases longevity, helps achieve and maintain weight loss, enhances mood, lowers blood pressure, and even improves arthritis. In short, exercise keeps you healthy and makes you look and feel better.

1. Spend Time with Loves Ones
   Recent polls conducted by General Nutrition Centers, Quicken, and others shows that more than 50% of people asked, vow to appreciate loved ones and spend more time with family and friends this year.


Honey and Macadamia Nut Fudge


   Honey and chopped macadamia nuts add a fresh twist to classic holiday fudge.

Honey and Macadamia Nut Fudge

  • 1 1/2
    cups granulated sugar
  • 1
    cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/3
    cup half-and-half or light cream
  • 1/3
    cup milk
  • 2
    tablespoons honey
  • 2
    tablespoons butter
  • 1
    teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2
    cup coarsely chopped macadamia nuts, hazelnuts (filberts), or pecans
  • Chopped nuts or chopped dried pineapple or papaya (optional)
1.Line a 9x5x3-inch loaf pan with foil, extending foil over edges of the pan. Butter the foil; set pan aside.
2.Butter the sides of a heavy 2-quart saucepan. In the saucepan, combine granulated sugar, brown sugar, half-and-half or light cream, milk, and honey. Cook and stir over medium-high heat until mixture boils and sugars dissolve (about 8 minutes). Clip a candy thermometer to side of pan. Reduce heat to medium-low; continue to boil at a moderate steady rate, stirring frequently, until thermometer registers 234 degrees F, soft-ball stage (15 to 20 minutes). Adjust heat as necessary to maintain a steady boil.
3.Remove pan from heat. Add butter and vanilla, but do not stir. Cool, without stirring, to 110 degrees F (50 to 60 minutes).
4.Remove thermometer from pan. Beat mixture vigorously with a clean wooden spoon until fudge just begins to thicken; stir in the 1/2 cup nuts. Continue beating until fudge just starts to lose its gloss (about 10 minutes total).
5.Immediately spread fudge evenly in prepared pan. Score into 1-1/4-inch squares while warm, and if desired, sprinkle with additional nuts or dried fruit. When fudge is firm, use foil to lift it out of the pan. Cut fudge into squares. Makes 1-1/4 pounds (about 36 pieces).
from the test kitchen
  • Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week.


Christmas Eve in a candlelit cemetery

Candlelit cemetery at Christmas, Finland

    At Christmastime many Finns visit cemeteries to place candles by the graves of relatives, or by monuments such as this one in memory of war veterans.
Visiting the local cemetery is very much a part of many Finnish families’ Christmas rituals. Hey, it’s not as morbid as it might sound.
    Although going to a graveyard might seem an unlikely activity for the festive season, the sight of hundreds of graveside candles glowing in the snow in a serene wooded cemetery can be surprisingly uplifting.
   Placing candles on the graves of deceased relatives at Christmastime is a deep-rooted tradition followed by non-churchgoers and members of the Orthodox faith, as well as believers from the majority Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland. “As many as three-quarters of Finnish families visit a cemetery at Christmas, mostly on Christmas Eve, and we even have to make special traffic arrangements to accommodate the crowds,” says Risto Lehto, who manages six cemeteries run by the Parish Union of Helsinki.
   Lehto explains that many people stroll in their local graveyards at Christmas even if none of their relatives are buried there, just to enjoy the tranquil candlelit scene. “Our cemeteries also have memorial features where people can light candles for those buried elsewhere.”

Light in the Darkness

Click to enlarge the picture
Coming to the cemetary to pay their respects

    Though the cemetery may be crowded, the atmosphere is silent and solemn as people quietly reflect on the candlelit scene, and their lost loved ones. “In truth cemeteries are for the living and not for the dead,” says Lehto. “In Finland we really take care of our cemeteries as scenic parks with grand old trees. They’re places where people can enjoy a peaceful stroll, as well as remembering the deceased. Grieving can be a long process, and we like to provide settings where people can gain comfort. Our cemeteries are nothing like the scary derelict graveyards you see in horror films!”
The myriad graveside candles certainly bring light and joy to the scene on a midwinter afternoon, making a secluded cemetery look like a mystic fairy dell. Some people make picturesque natural lanterns around their candles using piles of snowballs or icy covers made of water that has been frozen in a bucket.
   Lehto explains that the tradition of putting candles by graves only became widespread in Finland in the 1920s, when candles became affordable. However, the custom of paying seasonal respect to the dead probably dates back much further, and may even have its roots in pre-Christian times – like the pagan tradition of lighting midsummer bonfires, which is nowadays associated with the Christian feast of St John’s Day (Juhannus in Finnish).

A Hectic Time of Peace

Click to enlarge the picture
Hundreds of gravside candles glowing in the snow

    “In the post-war 1950s, when people wanted to remember those who died fighting to preserve Finland’s independence, putting candles on graves became more common on Independence Day (December 6) as well,” says Lehto. All Saints’ Day (November 1) is another day when Finnish cemeteries radiate with soft candlelight.
   “The tradition of visiting the cemetery certainly fits in well with our idea that Christmas is a family festivity, and a time of peace,” says Lehto. “Though actually for most Finnish families Christmas Eve ends up being a very hectic day, with a trip to the cemetery on top of other compulsory rituals like the huge Christmas meal, the Christmas sauna and the eagerly awaited arrival of Santa Claus!”