Christmas emerges as a special time filled with communal joy. As families advanced to prepare for the holiday, my Sunday began quietly—a lazy morning, a refreshing shower, and a leisurely breakfast with the comforting sounds of France24 on television and background jazz. The steady hum of my old automatic coffee maker added its melody to the ambience, filling the air with the rich aroma of freshly brewed coffee—a soundtrack that defines the warmth of home.

I later joined a friend and his three-year-old son at the bustling Century Mall, near the Gurd Shola area. The place is intertwined with the fusion of Western traditions and Ethiopian cultural practices. Massive trees with decoration and lightwork adorn the hallway to the last floor while visitors pose for stylish selfies.

I was curious enough to ask the price for some of the plastic trees ranging from 17,000 Br to 50,000 Br for the one with lighting and a battery-powered Christmas carol. It was unbelievably exorbitant for a relic that would be required only once a year, making me wonder if people will resort to using the natural Juniperus Procera.

The dilemma is ironic as the government works on both planting trees and trying to control the cost of living. These days ecological impacts of chopping down trees for decoration raised concerns, highlighting the need for mindful celebrations in an era focused on afforestation. In an age when both deforestation and inflation seem to strike hard, it might be wise to go easy on the axing of trees and finances for a fleeting festivity.

It might be wise to go easy on the axing of trees and finances for a fleeting festivity.

The holiday atmosphere continued in the children's game zone, teeming with families enjoying quality time. They were oblivious to the trials of the past year and the uncertainties of the one to come, revealing a determination to savour the moment.

A tradition of hockey played during the season and the incorporation of trees into urban celebrations reflected a blend of cultural heritage and global influences.

Ethiopian hockey (Yegena Chaweta) was the highlight of Ethiopian Christmas festivities with some even daring to play it on horseback. It is a national pastime associated with Ethiopian Christmas and spectators flooding into Jan Meda, near the Sidist Kilo area.

An iconic ballad titled Asina Genaye, played by the legendary musician Ferew Hailu is an anthem heard every year. It has famous lyrics that state master and servant are equal showcasing the physical nature of the game with no grudges to be held for kicks during the game. Folklores suggests that some use the occasion to settle scores or old feuds by deliberately hurling the hard ball towards an adversary to inflict injury.

It brought back recollections of childhood celebrations where I played a role in a Christmas-themed drama back in the day. My role was as one of King Herod’s knights when a census and door-to-door search of children in Betelhem was decreed. I uttered my line calmly without looking at the audience which was a thrilling experience.

The melancholic scene is cognizant of the raging war currently happening next door. A broader canvas of global events transcribed in the news cites the dark shadows of ongoing conflicts, serving as a poignant reminder that not everyone can share in the joyous holiday season.

The day took a celebratory turn as I attended a cross-cultural wedding—a union between an Ethiopian expatriate and his American spouse. It was a fitting prelude to the new year as the warmth of family, the exchange of blessings, and the cultural rituals painted a vivid picture of new beginnings and the celebration of human togetherness.

As the curtain fell on the final day of 2023, it brought a spectacle that stirred the curiosity of numerologists and enthusiasts. The sequence 123123 carried a special significance for those who find meaning in numbers.

The fascination with the number transcends its mere occurrence on a specific date. Their sum, 12, has held a profound place, representing notions of perfection and completeness in the realms of cultural symbolism, mathematics and art. It finds resonance in our calendars, with equivalent months mapping the solar year, and in the division of our daily lives to intervals.

Mathematically, it stands out as a highly composite divisible number, showcasing intriguing computational properties. The rhythmic alignment of the date takes on added significance as it coincides with the end of the week, falling gracefully on a Sunday. This temporal symmetry, with the sequence echoing like a call to start afresh, creates a metaphorical punctuation mark—a conclusion to one year and the harmonious beginning of another. It is a symbolic invitation to embrace a new journey, akin to the start of a musical composition.

The rhythmic departure of 2023 carries with it a unique sense of hope for the upcoming year, as 24—another intriguing numerical connection—symbolises a complete cycle of day and night, urging us to embrace the entirety of our experiences.

Regardless of the veracity of numerology, the allure of these numbers resonates on a deeper level. They evoke a sense of adventure, a readiness for new challenges, and the promise of a rejuvenated life. The number has also inspired works of art and literature, from Shakespeare's "12th Night" to the Soviet-era "12 Chairs" and Bruce Willis' apocalyptic masterpiece "12 Monkeys."

Although not as numerically evoking as the previous ones, I watched a couple of movies where parallels emerged between seemingly disparate narratives this holiday season. "Bad Santa" and "Violent Night" explore themes of redemption, reconciliation, and the potential for new beginnings. Though wrapped in comedic or satirical packages, they underscore the universal human desire to overcome past mistakes and embrace the future with hope and audacity.

I believe bracing for a better future and new beginnings is not a luxury but a necessity, after all that happened in the past year. As the rest of the world steps into the uncharted territory of 2024, may the rhythmic beats of the past guide us toward a harmonious future filled with hope and the promise of new beginnings.

PUBLISHED ON Jan 07,2024 [ VOL 24 , NO 1236]

Bereket Balcha works in the aviation industry and is passionate about fiction writing and can be reached at (

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