Giant Christmas Trees Sparkle Up Addis




Unlike most of the world, Ethiopians celebrate Christmas, more commonly known as Genna, on January 7, following 40 days of fasting. Although a Western tradition, the beginning of the festive season is marked with adorning houses with Christmas trees. The city and its residents have welcomed these trees not only into their homes but also in commercial centres and hotels as a nod to the tradition and further as a means to attract customers, writes HAIMANOT ASHENAFI, FORTUNE STAFF WRITER.


In the afternoon of December 27, 2017,  almost 10 days before Ethiopian Christmas, Rufael Teshome was driving with his cousin Selamawit Berihun down the narrow road from Cameroon Avenue to Africa Avenue. The siblings were looking for a place to have coffee.

Suddenly, a large X-mas tree decorated with lights, baubles and different pictures to commemorate Christmas, caught their eye. The 20-metre tall tree stands gracefully at the gate of Morning-Star Mall just next to Edna Mall.

Selamawit, a fifth-year architecture student at Adama University, insists on posing and taking a couple of selfies with the tree before having coffee in one of the cafés in the mall.

The tree lies on six square metres ,costing the management 60,000 Br.  It took 18 workers and 10 days to decorate the tree.

“We found it to be the best marketing and promotion tool at a low price,” Antneh Tesfaye, administrator of the Mall told Fortune.

During holidays the management would typically expend between 300,000 Br and 400,000 Br for promotion. But its latest marketing strategy is the new tree along with adverts on social media.

The tree, also called Evergreen Fir, set up by Morning Star Mall, was first used by Romans and ancient inhabitants of northern Europe a millennium ago for pagan traditions in Germanic and Slavic countries.

They would decorate their houses with evergreen branches to ward off witches, ghosts, evil spirits, and illnesses during winter and the new year.

The management of Berhane Adere Mall invested 300,000 Br, higher than the previous malls. Erecting and decorating the tree with imported furry materials on the metal frame took five days.



But gradually the missionaries preached Germanic and Slavic people to use the tree for religious purposes, exemplifying the deeds of Jesus Christ.

The other tale over the introduction of such trees dates back to when the world used these trees to represent the birth season of Jesus, i.e. the middle of winter when every tree throughout the world shook off its ice and snow to produced new young shoots.

Whatever the stories may be, such trees are now used globally, including by many Ethiopians. The trend has also made its way into the homes of many urbanites in the country who decorate their houses with X-mas trees as part of Christmas celebrations.

More recently, giant trees placed outside major shopping malls of the city, with the aim of attracting customers, has become the norm. This is witnessed by the increasing investments in these trees varying with size and decoration.

Among the bold trees crafted this year for the holidays is the one by Getu Commercial Centre (GCC). GCC has placed a Gibsophylia plant, which is considered as a weed in most parts of the country.

“We have been using an artificial tree for ten years, and now our decoration partner has proposed this new natural tree which is a good investment in the long term,” said Masersha Woldessilasie, the Centre’s general manager.

“We transported the plant that was sourced 15Km on the way to Modjo from Bishoftu from the farmer’s fields,” said Daniel G/Yohannes who runs the decoration business, Cabod Decor, with his sister.

For the tree, Cabod used a metal frame structure shaped like a tree and used a metal net to put the Gibsophylia on it.

Before using such artificial trees, many households in Ethiopia would use Cedar. But, the alarming rate of deforestation along with globalisation has made people opt for the artificial ones.



“We used 20 gallons of green paint to colour the plant,” said Daniel.

The 12-metre high tree lying on a four-metre square area has 200 metres of LED lights wrapped around it.

GCC has invested 170,000 Br for the tree, while the crafting company, Cabod, has invested an additional 70,000 Br, with 40 people working on it for 15 days.

“We want to promote our business,” said Daniel, who also crafted the 12m tall tree at the Berhane Adere Africa Mall, owned by the marathon and 10,000-metre athlete, Berhane Adere.

For this tree, the management of Berhane Adere Mall invested 300,000 Br, higher than the previous malls. Erecting and decorating the tree with imported furry materials on the metal frame took five days.

“To benefit from the seasonal business, many malls are crafting such trees in a bid to attract more visitors to their mall,’’ Daniel told Fortune.

Getenet Seleshi, building administration head of Berhane Adere Mall also explains that the tough competition among the businesses along Cameroon Avenue, a hub of shopping centres, led them to use X-mas trees to draw people’s attention.

“While promoting our mall, we can also lure many customers for our tenants with the X-mas tree,’’ he said. “According to a survey we conducted, different marketing strategies are essential to penetrate the market.”

Beyond attracting customers to the malls, these trees give an attractive look for the malls and also adorn the city, according to Daniel. “The trees would give a unique look to Addis,” he said .

One of the cities known for such decorations is New York. Since 1997, the celebration is broadcasted live on TV stations in the country and watched by millions.

The Rockefeller Centre Christmas Tree at the Rockefeller Plaza is very popular, attracting over 127 million tourists from all over the United States (US) and other parts of the world who come to see the tree and attend events organised along it.

Apart from the capital, the town of Bishoftu, had such trees placed by Kuriftu Resort & Spa. Kuriftu’s tree was made by its staff.  For this year the spa’s staff created a tree with towels, in addition to the one with wine bottles.

“We want to demonstrate new ideas and environmentally friendly trees every year,” Eskinder Getachew, general manager of Kuriftu told Fortune.

Hilton Addis and Sheraton Addis are also among the hotels that place five metre high trees during the festive season.

Before using such artificial trees, many households in Ethiopia would use Cedar. But, the alarming rate of deforestation along with globalisation has made people opt for the artificial ones.

Beyond having the tree at a household level, business centres like that of Morning Star, GCC and Berhane Adere Mall are competing with having the more creative tree. The usual five metre high trees are sold for 15,000 Br, without the lighting and decorations, showed a 20 fold price upsurge.

After taking pictures of the tree, sculptures and Santa Claus, a man in costume giving out gifts to the kids, both Rufael and Selamawit settled in to have coffee.

By HAIMANOT ASHENAFI
FORTUNE STAFF WRITER





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