Meskel Festival attracting millions of people in the capital Addis Ababa. Tourists, diplomats and high ranking government officials attend the celebration.
September 27, 2019
Meskel in one of the biggest yearly open air religious festivals for the followers of Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church ( also known as Ethiopian Church). It is also celebrated in Eritrea among orthodox Tewahdo church followers.
The religious holiday commemorates Empress Helena’s success in discovering the true cross in Jerusalem in the fourth Century A.D.
Meskel Means in the Ethiopian language “cross.” The festival is also referred to as Demera. specifically, the use of this word seem to be related to Bonfire which is lit before the end of the day. In Ethiopian calendar, the day starts in the morning with the sun rise, not in the middle of the night as in the case of the Gregorian calendar.
The day is equally divided into two – twelve hours each. From sunrise to sunset is day time and from sunset to sunrise is night time in the calendar.
The holiday is celebrated on September 27 only when it is a leap year. Otherwise, it is celebrated on September 26. The timing is just two weeks after the Ethiopian New Year which falls on September 11 except in the Leap Year during which the New Year falls on September 12.
The time marks the end of Ethiopia’s two month long rainy season. Landscape is green and flowers blossom during the Ethiopian New Year. It really feels like a new year.
Meskel celebration is more colorful in the capital Addis Ababa as it draws millions of people. However, is is also colorfully celebrated in towns, cities and even rural villages across the country.
Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church deacons, priests, choir and worshipers from different churches and diocese make an elaborate procession to the Demera place singing about the power of the cross and its findings.
Once they reached the place where the Demera is organized, rituals in the tradition of the Ethiopian Church will take place. Among the most captivating aspects of it is Woreb , which is a very unique song of praise by the priests and deacons- truly a colorful ceremony.
Then the Bishops and/or the Patriarch will give benediction before he lit the bonfire Demera.
In 2013, UNESCO has inscribed Meskel on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
Meskel celebration now attracts hundreds of thousands of tourists to Ethiopia and it has become one of the major boosts to the country’s tourism industry. And the Ethiopian government seem to be paying attention to the celebration.
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