Traditions and customs of Ethiopia

What traditions and customs are there in Ethiopia?

Here we can see the customs and traditions of Ethiopia.


Food in daily life

Injera, a fluffy unleavened bread made from teff grain, is the staple of every meal. All foods are eaten with the hands, and injera pieces are cut into bite-sized pieces and used to dip and grab stews (“wat”) made from vegetables such as carrots and cabbage, spinach, potatoes, and lentils. The most common spice is berberey, which has a red pepper base.

Food taboos found in the Old Testament are observed by most people as prescribed by the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. The meat of animals with uncloven hooves and those that do not chew their cud are avoided as unclean. It is almost impossible to get pork.

Animals used for food must be slaughtered with the head turned to the east while the throat is slit “In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit” if the slaughterer is a Christian or “In the name of Allah the Merciful” if the killer is Muslim.

Food customs on ceremonial occasions

The coffee ceremony is a common ritual. The server lights a fire and roasts green coffee beans while burning incense. Once roasted, the coffee beans are ground using a mortar and pestle, and the powder is placed in a traditional black pot called a jebena.

Next, water is added. The jebena is removed from the heat and the coffee is served after brewing for the appropriate time. Kolo (cooked whole grain barley) is often served with coffee.

Meat, specifically beef, chicken, and lamb, is eaten with injera on special occasions. Beef is sometimes eaten raw or lightly cooked in a dish called kitfo. Traditionally this was a staple of the diet, but in the modern age many of the elite have shunned it in favor of cooked beef.

During Christian fast periods, no animal products may be eaten and no food or drink may be consumed from midnight to 3 p.m. This is the standard way of fasting during the week, and on Saturday and Sunday they may not be consumed. animal products, although there are no time restrictions for fasting.

Honey wine, called tej, is a drink reserved for special occasions. Tej is a mixture of honey and water flavored with twigs and leaves of gesho plants and is traditionally drunk from tube-shaped flasks. High-quality tej has become a commodity for the upper class, who have the resources to make and buy it.


Traditional marriage customs vary by ethnic group, although many are trans-ethnic. Arranged marriages are the norm, although this practice is becoming much less common, especially in urban areas.

The presentation of a dowry from the man’s family to the woman’s family is common. The amount is not fixed and varies according to the wealth of the families. The dowry may include livestock, money, or other items of social value.

The proposal usually involves the elders, who travel from the groom’s house to the bride’s parents to propose the marriage. The elders are traditionally the individuals who decide when and where the ceremony takes place.

Both the bride and groom’s families prepare the food and drink for the ceremony by brewing wine and beer and cooking the food. A large amount of food is prepared for the occasion, especially meat dishes.

Christians are often married in Orthodox churches, and there are a variety of types of weddings. In the takelil type, the bride and groom participate in a special ceremony and agree never to divorce. This type of commitment has become rare in recent years. Wedding attire in the cities is very Western: suits and tuxedos for the men and a white wedding dress.


The greeting takes the form of multiple kisses on both cheeks and a plethora of courtesies exchanged. Any hint of superiority is treated with contempt. Age is a factor in social behavior, and the elderly are treated with the utmost respect.

When an elderly person or guest enters a room, it is customary to stand until the person is seated. Food etiquette is also important. Always wash your hands before a meal, since all food is eaten with the hands from a common plate. It is customary for the guest to start eating.

During a meal, it is the proper way to throw injera only from the space directly in front of oneself. Out of stock portions are quickly replaced. During meals, engaging in conversation is considered courteous; complete attention to food is considered impolite.


Religious beliefs

For centuries there has been religious freedom in Ethiopia. The Ethiopian Orthodox Church is the oldest in sub-Saharan Africa, and the first mosque in Africa was built in Tigre province.

Christianity and Islam have coexisted peacefully for hundreds of years, and the Christian kings of Ethiopia sheltered Muhammad during his persecution in southern Arabia, causing the Prophet to declare Ethiopia exempt from Muslim holy wars. It is not uncommon for Christians and Muslims to visit each other’s house of worship to seek health or prosperity.

The dominant religion has been Orthodox Christianity since King Ēzānā of Axum adopted Christianity in 333. It was the official religion during the reign of the monarchy and is currently the unofficial religion.

Due to the spread of Islam in Africa, Ethiopian Orthodox Christianity was separated from the Christian world. This has led to many unique features of the church, which is considered the most Jewish formal Christian church.

The Ethiopian Orthodox Church claims the original Ark of the Covenant, and replicas (called tabotat) are found in a central sanctuary in all churches; it is the tabot that consecrates a church. The Ethiopian Orthodox Church is the only established church that has rejected the doctrine of Pauline Christianity, which claims that the Old Testament lost its binding force after the coming of Jesus.

The Old Testament approach of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church includes dietary laws similar to the kosher tradition, circumcision after the eighth day of birth, and a Saturday Sabbath.

Judaism was historically a major religion, although the vast majority of Ethiopian Jews (called Beta Israel) reside in Israel today. The Beta Israel were politically powerful at certain times. Ethiopian Jews were often persecuted over the last few hundred years, resulting in massive secret airlifts in 1984 and 1991 by the Israeli army.

Islam has been a significant religion in Ethiopia since the 8th century, but has been viewed as the “outside” religion by many Christians and scholars. Non-Muslims have traditionally interpreted Ethiopian Islam as hostile. This prejudice is the result of the dominance of Christianity.

Polytheistic religions are found in the lowlands, which have also received Protestant missionaries. These evangelical churches are growing rapidly, but Orthodox Christianity and Islam claim adherence to 85 to 90 percent of the population.

Religious professionals

The head of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church is often known to Ethiopians as the Patriarch or the Pope. The Patriarch, a Copt, was traditionally sent from Egypt to lead the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. This tradition was abandoned in the 1950s when the Patriarch was chosen by Emperor Haile Selassie within the Ethiopian Church.

The tradition of the Patriarch being sent from Egypt began in the fourth century. Emperor Ēzānā of Axum’s conversion to Christianity was facilitated by a Syrian boy named Frumentious, who worked in the emperor’s court. After Emperor Ēzānā’s conversion, Frumentious traveled to Egypt to consult the Coptic authorities about sending a patriarch to lead the Church.

They concluded that Frumentious would serve better in that role and he was anointed Abba Salama (father of peace) and became the first Patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church.

Within the Orthodox Church there are various categories of clergy, including priests, deacons, monks, and lay priests. In the 1960s it was estimated that between 10 and 20 percent of all adult Amhara and Tigrean men were priests.

These figures are much less extraordinary considering that at that time there were between 17,000 and 18,000 churches in the Amhara and Tigrean regions in the north-central highlands.

Rituals and sacred places

Most of the celebrations are religious in nature. The main Christian holidays are Christmas on January 7, Epiphany (celebration of the baptism of Jesus) on January 19, Good Friday and Easter (at the end of April) and Meskel (the finding of the true cross) of September 17.

Muslim holidays include Ramadan, Id Al Adha (Arafa) on March 15, and Muhammad’s birthday on June 14. During all religious festivals, the faithful go to their respective places of worship. Many Christian holidays are also state holidays.

Death and the afterlife

Death is part of daily life, as famine, AIDS and malaria claim many lives. Three days of mourning for the dead is the norm. The dead are buried on the day they die, and they eat special foods that are provided by family and friends.

Christians bury their dead on church grounds, and Muslims do the same in the mosque. Muslims read religious texts, while Christians tend to mourn their dead during the mourning period.

Secular celebrations

The main holidays are New Year’s Day, September 11; Adwa Victory Day, March 2; Ethiopian Patriots’ Victory Day, April 6; Labor Day, May 1; and the Fall of the Derge, on May 28.

The arts and humanities


The classical language of Ge’ez, which has evolved into Amharic and Tigrean, is one of four extinct languages, but it is the only indigenous writing system in Africa still in use. Ge’ez is still spoken in Orthodox Church services.

The development of Ge’ez literature began with translations of the Old and New Testaments from Greek and Hebrew. Ge’ez was also the first Semitic language to employ a vowel system.

Many apocryphal texts such as the Book of Enoch, the Book of Jubilees, and the Ascension of Isaiah have been preserved in their entirety only in Ge’ez. Although these texts were not included in the biblical canon, among biblical scholars (and Ethiopian Christians) they are considered significant for the understanding of the origin and development of Christianity.

Graphic arts

Religious art, especially Orthodox Christian art, has been a significant part of the national culture for hundreds of years. Bibles and illuminated manuscripts date back to the 12th century, and Lalibela’s 800-year-old churches contain Christian paintings, manuscripts and stone reliefs.

Woodcarving and sculpture are very common in the southern lowlands, especially among the Konso. A school of fine arts has been established in Addis Ababa which teaches painting, sculpture, printmaking and letters.

Performing arts

Christian music is believed to have been established by Saint Yared in the 6th century and is sung in Ge’ez, the liturgical language. Both Orthodox and Protestant music is popular and is sung in Amharic, Tigrean and Oromo.

The traditional dance, eskesta, consists of rhythmic movements of the shoulders and is usually accompanied by the kabaro, a drum made of wood and animal skin, and the masinqo, a single-string violin with an A-shaped bridge played with a little bow. Foreign influences exist in the form of Afro-pop, reggae, and hip-hop.

Share the customs and traditions of Ethiopia.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button