Ethiopian Christmas celebrations in pictures

written by Karoki Lewis
updated 11/5/2018
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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

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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

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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.

Travel advice for Ethiopia

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written by Karoki Lewis
created 1/7/2016
updated 11/5/2018
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