Tsom, the Ethiopian Christian fasting season has officially started. Tsom is the fasting season before Easter. Christianity is a huge party of Ethiopian culture and fasting/ Tsom is a normal part of the culture. So what do we do during the Tsom season? Essentially everyone who is fasting or participating in Tsom is adopting a Vegan lifestyle. No butter, meat, or any other animal product. There are so many substitutes for the staple foods in the Ethiopian diet that really fasting becomes easy when you are living in an area where there are a lot of Ethiopians or even when living in Ethiopia.
However, what about those people that live in an area where there isn’t easy access to vegan food, or the Ethiopian food substitutes. It becomes a lot more challenging to follow the vegan diet.
My only problem with Tsom, from a cultural stand point, is that it causes the individual to focus so much on the food that they eat and forget the reason for the season. Tsom is a time to prepare for the rising of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. It is a time to prepare our mind, body and soul for Easter. I think it is important that people combine both the mind and body aspect with the spiritual aspect. Sometimes I find it harder to focus on that entire thing when you are trying to figure out what to eat during the Tsom season.
I have participated in Tsom in the past. I found it to be a challenge. I would say I was fairly successful in keeping with the dietary restrictions. The most amazing part of Tsom is the unifying concept behind it. All people, whether rich or poor have this one thing in common. It brings people with political and cultural differences together. We all end up eating the same things, there is no distinction between class or even political view.
Tsom requires a lot of dedication and focus. What is your take? Does Tsom unite or divide? Does it really allow people to focus on preparing for Easter? Share your thoughts here and let’s keep the conversation going!
2 thoughts on “Tsom (The fasting Season)”
Although I myself have not gone through the practice of tsom, I still agree with what you’re saying in this post. My own quarrels with the practice of tsom, however, is the divisiveness I have witnessed among “tsome-ers”. I’m referring to the same notion you touched on in the post about the dietary restrictions but how it goes deeper and causes individuals to scrutinize each other for “eating fish vs. not eating any seafood” or “eating margarine vs. no butter substitutes”. I’ve found that the very notion of tsom causes gossip among church goers.
Another issue I have with tsom is the fact that in the Ethiopian culture, children are started at such a young age and made to feel like they are obligated to follow the strict dietary restrictions when they themselves are not yet fully grown. The Ethiopian American kid, and other ethnicities alike, already have so much on their plate, must we also make them worry about their next meal? If the child truly expresses his/her interest in tsom, then by all means they should participate but I completely disagree with imposing such a tradition on children, especially if they don’t understand the meaning behind it.
Just my two cents! Keep posting!
Yes I absolutely agree, The gossip and the side eyes are something people should not be subjected to. to Tsom or not to Tsom is a personal choice. Whether or not one subscribes to the dietary restriction and the process should not bring his or her christianity or faith into question.
On the other hand there are the benefits to giving up something for the process of cleaning yourself from more worldly things.
I remember when I was in college and my friends and I decided to participate in Tsom. We were living on campus at the time and finding food to eat was the ultimate struggle. Imagine, everyday we go into a world where being vegan is not ordinary. We literally ate veggie burgers and french fries everyday. A diet that consisted of basically carbohydrates and fried potatoes resulted in a very unhealthy diet. As an adult I was more successful in Tsom, as I expanded my palate to include more vegetables.
The struggle is real, and finding the balance is difficult to strike while we live in this dual world and try to balance both cultural norms, religious norms, and fitting into American society.