Today Ethiopia is celebrating Christmas. Following the Julian calendar, this East African, Orthodox Christian nation celebrates Christmas on the 7th January each year.
In Lalibela, one of the holiest sites in Ethiopia, tens of thousands of pilgrims gather for mass in the town’s 12 rock-hewn churches. All through the night there’s chanting, singing, swaying and praying – an evocative sight if you’re lucky enough to witness it.
Photographer Karoki Lewis travelled to Lalibela for Christmas, and here he shares his best pictures of the spectacular event.
Pilgrims gather on Christmas eve for the all-night Christmas celebrations at the Bet Maryam (Church of the Virgin Mary), Lalibela, Ethiopia
Pilgrims visit Bet Giyorgis, the Church of St George
Young pilgrims wearing Ethiopian national dress
Pilgrims celebrate the end of their 43 day fast, drinking the local honey based liquor tej
Pilgrims arrive from all over Ethiopia (some having walked for 4-5 weeks)
Priest and deacons line up for King David’s dance, the final ritual at the Bet Maryam
Priest and deacons get ready to dance in Bet Maryam
Pilgrims light candles to the new born Jesus
A pilgrim waits for Christmas day in Lalibela
Priests and deacons wearing white Shemas (shawls) and cloaks perform ritual dances
Pilgrims gather on Christmas eve
Pilgrims carry candles during celebrations
Pilgrim reading bible in the courtyard of Bet Maryam
Priests and Deacons in the courtyard of Bet Maryam
Pilgrims camp out near the churches of Lalibela
These tukuls become temporary homes for the pilgrims
Priest holds a 12th century bronze cross inside Bet Danaghel
Young priests sing and chant
Bet Maryam (Church of the Virgin Mary)
Priest with wooden cross and 500-year-old canvas painting in Bet Golgotha
Pilgrims at the Bet Gabriel
All images © Karoki Lewis 2016. Explore more of Ethiopia with the Rough Guide to Ethiopia. Compare flights, find tours, book hostels and hotels for your trip, and don’t forget to purchase travel insurance before you go.