An Ethiopian Christmas in Hackney
- Credit: Holly Chant
Ethiopians, Eritreans and Rastafarians came together with friends, family and guests on January 7 to celebrate an Ethiopian Christmas in Hackney.
Despite its long history, the tradition known also as Genna or Ledet, is largely and unofficially unheard of in the UK.
But many people of African heritage in Britain have celebrated the Ethiopian Orthodox day for decades - if not longer.
Ngozi Fulani, founding member of Domestic violence charity Sistah Space, helped organise the event to commemorate the day.
"So this is 2020 and we've known the tradition from the Rastafarian community for many decades but we've not had the opportunity to celebrate before with Ethiopian, Eritrean and other cultures - so we're learning about things we didn't know," said Ngozi.
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"The 7th is a day of learning for everybody."
Mayor Phil Glanville and the speaker of Hackney, Kam Adams, joined the occasion where people ate Ethiopian and Afro-Caribbean food, spoke about their cultures in several languages and shared songs accompanied by djembe drums.
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Ngozi hopes to gain wider recognition for the holiday and to foster a greater understanding of the cultures and communities that celebrate it.
She told the Gazette: "What we want to do is to make sure most people, if not all, and definitely organisations and councils, will know about and acknowledge this very important date in the Ethiopian calendar. We see Hanukkah, Dewali and other great occasions memorialised [and] we think it's important. It's essential because if you don't acknowledge these traditions it sends a clear message that we are not important - that we remain invisible in plain sight."
Despite the importance of the day for many communities which mark special occasions using the ancient Julian calander, most people in the UK go back to work on January 6.
"We're based in Hackney but we're really trying to ensure that first london and then the UK knows about this date. There are Africans [and Caribbeans] everywhere, working on Ethiopian Christmas, and if they took that day off in celebration they would face discipline or even being fired.
If other people can take the 25th of December off why shouldn't other people be afforded that same right," Ngozi said.
Miss Reggae Gold also performed on the night.