Eritrea: The Warmth of Holidays

Here comes the long-awaited religious festival, Christmas. People can finally break the fasting that lasted for a month and two weeks.

When I was much younger, a holiday was one of the things that made me really happy because schools were closed during national or religious holidays. Now seeing my brother asking almost every week when the next holiday reminds me of my young self. We didn’t know the meaning and importance of a day off from school during a holiday. The only thing that mattered was the free time we had and the fact that we were not really required by our parents to study and do homework on holidays.

The other day I asked my brother’s friend what excites him most about holidays, hoping to get the same answer I gave some ten years back. He said, “I want to show off the outfits my parents buy me during holidays.” Well, kids, these days seem to be more excited by their new outfits rather than by having a day off from school. Anyway, one way or another, holidays bring happiness to us all.

Holidays bring families together. The holiday season is an exceptionally warm time that is longed for. Perhaps that’s why we traditionally put a lot of our energy and money into celebrating it by slaughtering animals, preparing traditional drinks such as Siwa, which takes a long time to make, and buying cakes and sweets for a fancy coffee ceremony. Both kids and adults are excited about a holiday. Who doesn’t love a day off from work and celebrate with family and friends?

We, Eritreans, usually celebrate the geez Christmas, a week after the Gregorian calendar’s New Year. To make the holiday vibrant, special entertainment programs are broadcast on television and radio. Religious festivals and national events have been commonly celebrated in the past at the national level by gathering people in big halls and entertaining them through artistic performances. This cannot be done this time around due to COVID-19 which does not allow social gatherings of the kind we are used to.