Ethiopian Christmas was on Thursday. A neighbor/friend/employee invited us to be part of a neighborhood group who pool money together to buy a Christmas ox. We were the 11th family and after a meeting, the others decided they would rather not have another family because they wanted a tenth of the meat, but invited us to come, see and participate. Also, if you pay for part of the meat, your name is entered in a lottery for the ox skin. I didn’t want to deal with the meat. We are nearly vegetarian here because I am a bit squeamish about seeing animals alive before I eat them.
We gathered at a friend’s. All of the men were present, a few kids and women trickled in.
We showed up a bit earlier than I would have liked as we were there for the first cut. Jon was involved and I tried to distract the girls. As you may notice in the photo, it didn’t work.
In Yeshuas’ hand is the tongue. It was the first thing to be cut out of the ox as soon as it had died. Then the men drank coffee and ate raw chunks of the tongue. Jon (on the end) drank the coffee but didn’t eat any tongue.
As more kids came, they tried to get close to the action and were shooed away. Our girls kept their distance and sipped on coffee.
Yeshuas cut of a piece of tongue for his son.
This mom and daughter combo kept the coffee going during the whole process. The men are all busy.
Out came large false banana leaves to serve as plates to divide the meat into 10 equal piles
Yuck. Jon had sweet and gracious teachers, several who would involve him and explain the process.
Solomon lays out the leaves
As the morning went on, more women came, with fresh injera smeared with berbere butter paste.
Working together to divide the meat.
Jon and Meregeta enjoy a break
And then the ax came out to hack off a stubborn leg and I distanced myself.
I sat with the women, which is a rare privilege as they don’t sit much.
the piles were divided equally, 10 parts.
Any guesses what this is?
The stomach. The men snacked on this (raw) as they worked. Jon and I didn’t snack.
So blessed to sit with these lovely ladies.
Playing a variation of “Duck, Duck, Goose” as the sun was hot and the process long.
We had a lunch invitation so we left and visited Yeshi (who served us vegetarian food, exactly what we wanted).
After “Christmas Ball” played in the pasture, we were invited for a meal of injera and stewed beef. The day was full and we were feeling the pressure of not knowing the delicate balance of eating to show we enjoy the Awi food and culture, but not looking too hungry or eating too much and use too many resources. After all, this is one of three times a year when most Awi people eat meat.
We finished up our evening coffee (caffeine doesn’t seem to affect anyone. We had the equivalent of nine coffees today). Our evening hosts left the room and entered a side storage room. They came out with a bag full of meat, probably around 4 kilos. After we left for lunch, the 10 families talked and each gave of their equal piles into a bag for us. They would accept no payment, it was a gift for us to enjoy our Christmas. We don’t deserve to live with these gracious people.
Sometimes, living here is incredibly frustrating and unsettling. Other days, it is so abundant in blessing we don’t have words, in English or Amharic. As we walked back after dusk to our house, (we were hurrying, dead animal parts were everywhere and I was afraid the hyenas would come out early because of all the bloodshed), I realized that maybe we’ve just experienced Christmas and selfless giving in one of it’s purest forms.
Our morning started with meat and…
It ended with meat as Zelalem “taught” me the women’s work of chopping and preparing the meat. The men started but I had to take over. I would rather have not seen raw meat for a while but I smiled and took the knife.