This holiday season will be the second one I've celebrated in Africa. Last year I was on the lovely island of Zanzibar, enjoying beautiful sandy beaches and seafood. This year, though it is not set in stone, I will probably be hanging out in my little Ethiopian town, eating a normal dinner of injera and misir wat (lentil stew) with my compound family. Loud Ethiopian musical videos with girls dancing in traditional clothing in a beautiful field with mountains in the background will be playing on the TV set by the door. As I get close to finishing my service, I relish these normal family dinners with my compound, but missing home, family, and friends gets a just a bit harder this time of year. Small parties of white elephant gift exchange with fellow PCVs and skyping with the parents will help make the time just a little bit like it is back in the states. Even though it's weird missing yet another fondue Christmas dinner and the Pratt's New Years Day Potluck, there are times it doesn't even feel like the holiday season. Here we are not surround by Christmas trees, music, or stacks of red and green cookies. There are no breaks in the schools or offices, no advertisements for shops, no snow, or even cold weather for that matter. So, I will not dwell on what I'm missing, but enjoy the normal family dinners and beers with other PCVs.
Enough about what is not here, let me give you a little taste of what the holiday season has in this wonderful country. The main holiday season here is in September, which is the Ethiopian new year, as well as, a big holiday called Meskel, that celebrates the finding of the true cross. In addition, Ethiopian Christmas will be celebrated just a could weeks after our own. Holidays mostly consist of eating, much like our own. Goats, sheep, and chicken are slaughtered. T'ela (local beer) is made, family is invited, and a good time is had. Groups of small girls singing songs come house to house to entertain and sell flowers. At night large piles of dried sticks and corn stalks are burned. People chant and sing, sit and dance. The common Hoy-ya, Hoy-yay and clapping can be heard around town long into the night. The next week, leftovers are heated up and reheated up and life moves on. Holidays may be different around the world, but in many ways they're the same. A time for celebration, family, hope and love.