If you are in Addis in the sunny month of September having a light shower, you are definitely at the right time to enjoy the true cultural and religious festivities of the country. A Holiday after a holiday, a celebration after a celebration are among the fascinating features that render this glistening month unique in the Ethiopian calendar.
September also marks the beginning of the end of the Ethiopian rainy season. As such, it is a cherished season that signifies a change from a congealing cold to a fascinating season that motivates citizens for action. It is an epitome for a change of mood for the better. Specially for townees it is a time for going out for work after being tide down home due to stifling weather.
The season is accentuated with lash grasses and yellow daises( Adey Abebsas in Amharic).
New year and Eid-Al-Ftir have already been celebrated and if you miss either of the two holidays, do not worry because you have Mesqel and Irecha festivities in perspectiv .
September is also a month when both Muslims and Christians celebrate their respective holidays amicably.
What is even remarkable about the month, which marks the Beginning of a new chapter or a new year is that it brings together all Ethiopians to celebrate festivities together. New year is celebrated every September 8 and Eid-al-Fitr September 9.
Enkutatash is the first day of the New Year in Ethiopia. It falls on Meskerem 1 on the Ethiopian calendar, which is 11 September (or, during a leap year, 12 September) according to the Gregorian calendar.
Eid-al-Fitr is another big holiday for followers of Islamic religion. In Ethiopia the day is celebrated uniquely by helping the destitute and sharing what one has under ones disposal. Many Muslims attend communal prayers in different places. Following the Eid-al-Ftir comes Mesqel-the founding of the true cross– another religious festivity not only known to Ethiopians but to foreigners as well.
Meskel, one of the major Ethiopian Orthodox festivals, which is also registered by United Nations’ Education Science and Culture as intangible heritage is celebrated for two days beginning September 26th.
According to the Ethiopian Orthodox books, on this day around 330 AD, St. Helena who is known as Nigist Eleni in Ethiopia and who was the mother of Rome’s first Christian emperor, Constantine – from a mountain of garbage she unearthed the cross on which Jesus had been crucified. In accordance with a revelation she had in a dream, Helena burned a giant pile of wood and frankincense. The smoke rose into the sky and then arced back down to earth, indicating to her the spot where the cross had been buried by the heathens.
To parry another attempt to hide the cross, 4 fragments of the cross were distributed among dominant churches around the 4 corners of the world, and one found its way to Ethiopia, where it is now said to be buried under the Gishen Mariam Church in the northeastern Wollo State or Lalibela, at a place where roads intersect to form a cross.
The celebration of the finding of the true cross,which by way of reenacting Helinas deed entails the torching of a huge bonfire, has stood the test of time and is attracting more and more tourists for attendance every year.
The attraction it has for a growing number of tourists as well as the increased participation of the society and people of all ages adds special flavour to the day. During the eve of the holiday, thousands of people flock to the Meskel Square, to watch the ceremonial lighting of the bonfire. Colorful as the holiday is, even non Christians have a reason to celebrate the day.
Pertaining to the programme layout, there are two major events on Meskel. The first is Demera, in which bonfires are lit. The Patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church along with mayor of the city leads the lighting ceremony. After the bonfire is blessed it will be lit up. The dramatic occasion is accompanied by singing religious songs with body rhythms circling the bonfires, whose tongues of fire and smokes soar up into the sky. Bishops, priests deacons and Sunday school students in full ceremonial robs, sing volubly around the bonfire while celebrants echo back their songs.
While the Demera is set on fire, there is an inner feeling of brightness finds its way on to the faces of all around. A bonfire would be lit up in the central square of Ethiopia’s capital city, Addis Ababa in the evening.
After the major event at Maskel Square took place the ceremony replicates across the city. Smaller bonfires, here and there throughout the city erected at favourable spots or on street corners, get lit up. The celebrations continue into the night, at some places accompanied by blessings and preaching.
The Orthodox faithful, bearing a cross made of the ashes of the bonfire on their forehead, head to the nearby churches to mix with welcoming congregants. And yet people also go to their respective houses to lit bonfire and celebrate the festivity all together with their neighbours.
The day after the Demera is Meskel. This day is observed with plenty of dinning and a drinking bout as believers keep on going to the spot of the Demera and, using ashes from the fire, mark their heads with the sign of the cross. The holiday has a similar mood across the country.
With Mesqel to be celebrated days later this year, tourists or Diasporas have nothing to worry about because Addis Ababa’s hotels and guest houses have already finalized preparation to cordially welcome them and render better services.
Kindness to one another and supporting the needy are also the hallmarks of these Ethiopian festivities and you always welcome by the friendly Ethiopians to give a good time.
Meseqel holiday is also followed by the Irecha. Irecha is a Thanksgiving festivity. Irecha, marks the end of the rainy season and the beginning of the sunny one.
On the day adorned with snow white embroidered costumes, turbans, and clothes made of hides of wild animals as well as holding spears and a special stick that bespeaks the Gada system, thousands of celebrants from Ethiopia’s largest ethnic group, the Oromo, celebrants flock to the south east town of Bishoftu, Hora Arsadi, some 25-kms to the south of Finfinne, the capital city, to partake in the Irecha festival.