Magnificent Ethiopian Christmas music ; “Asina bel” Ethiopia’s Jingle Bells

January 6,2017




As one of the ancient Christian countries, Ethiopia has developed a rich cultural traditions over millennia of years. The culture itself, until very recently, bear features of Christian teachings and emphasized society,as opposed to individual, and Christian morality.

Ethiopian Christmas (Gena) is certainly one of the holidays colorfully celebrated among Ethiopian Christians. The cultural aspect of it is even celebrated by non-Christian Ethiopians. Pious Christians make pilgrimage to Lalibela to celebrate the holiday. The ceremony is unique and truly elating so much so that it has turned out to be one of Ethiopia’s major tourist attraction generating millions of dollars in revenue.

In the above video of music play, renowned Ethiopian singer from the 70’s and 80’s , Firew Hailu, sings the most popular Ethiopian Christmas music. It is know as “Asina Bel Asina Genaye.” In the old days Ethiopian culture, men are collected, serious and play is not emphasized. Apparently, it is understood us lack of character when men play (it even tend to take the connotation of the Amharic “bualt”) too much. Gena (Ethiopian Christmas) is an exception. And the song goes like “even the lords do not scold for playing during Gena.” And the play is not just for the youth during Gena. Even elders play.

As you may see in the video, gents did the cultural ritual of the holiday; could turn out to be tense. Yet, in the end they are unified with the intervention of elders for mediation. Laddies have their own style. But seniors seem to have noticed that ladies are doing things a bit differently and they had to intervene gently to show to the girls how it is done. Possibly, what resonates from it is sensitivity to cultural heritages, and readiness, fortunately back then, on the part of the younger ones to learn from seniors, not to mention revering attitude.

Specially in the past ten years, this rich cultural tradition is clearly weakened. With what seem to be growing influence from huge diaspora population and western global cultural conquest, even young Ethiopians in cities like Addis Ababa tend to celebrate Western Christmas. It is considered as a sort of “modernity.” It is as youngsters dance to “Jingle Bell” than Ethiopia’s own Asina Bel.

With that development, Ethiopian Christmas is not getting the attention is deserves. Furthermore, sky rocketing cost of living under the ruling government has added more pressure on Ethiopians so much so that they can not even celebrate the holidays they value most like Gena (Ethiopian Christmas). The focus of the ruling party is to entrench a political holiday in a way to promote the ethnic federalism.

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