As the Easter holiday (or as we call it, tinsaye) approaches, you'll find more cattle on the streets than people. Easter marks the end of the Ethiopian Orthodox tradition of fasting for 55 days, during which many people abstain from consuming animal products. And as any long fast ends, a celebratory feast begins!
To prepare for the celebrations, our markets are bustling with chickens, sheeps, goats, bulls, and everything else needed for the feast. You see, unlike the Western world, we Ethiopians butcher our own meat. You might see a bike rider fly past with a sheep on his back, a scarved woman haggling for a deal with chickens hanging from her hand, or groups of men comparing and admiring the cattle they've just purchased.
All this preparation leads to one staple meal – Doro Wot. It's a spicy chicken stew, eaten with injera, that's as central to Ethiopian holidays as turkey is to Thanksgiving! It's a holiday dish that takes immense time and effort to make and is said to be a true test of one's cooking skills.
Most homes begin the process the day before Easter, first by peeling all the onions required for the dish – which is a lot of onions. Then comes time to cut the chicken into the perfect dozen pieces – the step where most women's skills are tested (though more and more men are learning to make the dish in recent times). After hours and hours of cooking the onion, the other spices and components are added, then finally, the chicken goes in.
Doro Wot is central to many traditions. For example, the butcher of the chicken is entitled to a specific cut of the meat. Another less common tradition, "Akfay", demands that newly married couples unite their families by making a full Doro Wot for everyone.
To celebrate Easter, Addis Ababa will come bursting to life over the next 50 days of feasting. The markets would be bustling, shops and restaurants brimming with celebration, and peoples homes filled with neighbors joining in the festivities. Unfortunately, due to COVID, these are all tales of the past rather than the present. We still hope to celebrate safely, and we hope that by our next holiday, we can enjoy it to the fullest!