MESKEL - Meskerem 17 (September 27)

Meskel (The Finding of the True Cross), is the celebration of the finding of remnants of the actual cross on which Jesus was crucified. The celebration is said to be started in 326 AD. It starts on the eve (September 26) with large preparation of bonfires called demera, topped with a cross and decorated with meskel flowers. The bonfire (demera) preparations are blessed and burned while revelers sing and dance around the fire. On the eve of Meskel, Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church deacons, priests, singers and worshipers from different churches and parish make an elaborate procession to the demera place singing about the power of the cross and its findings. On the day there is a feasting, drinking and dancing, which reaches its climax when the central pole of the demera falls. The finding of the True Cross (Meskel) in Ethiopia believed that a piece of the cross Saint Helena discovered was brought to Ethiopia, and is housed in the mountains of Amba Geshen Mariam monastrey in Wollo. The celebration commemorates the event carried out by Empress Helena the mother of Emperor Constantine the Great. The biggest Meskel celebration is also in Addis Ababa, where large crowds gather in Meskel square near the Church of Saint Estifanos. Gondar, Axum and Lalibela are also good locations to celebrate this festival. Probably the most exuberant celebrations take place among the Gurage, Gamo, Goffa and Dorze people, southwest of Addis Ababa in the Southern Region. In 2013, UNESCO has inscribed meskel as World Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. A colorful procession gathers around the huge pyramid and the torch bearers set it alight. The people believe that the direction of the smoke will predict the fate of the future to come. The celebration, therefore, attracts hundreds of thousands of tourists to Ethiopia.