Meskel, literarily means cross is the second colorfully celebrated festival according to the Ethiopian calendar following the New Year; Enkutatash.
This religious festival that is awaited by many eagerly marks the commemoration of the finding of the true cross by Queen Eleni, mother of Alexander the great. Legend argues that for many years the cross up on which Jesus was crucified was missing from the face of Israel. But after long period of time, the Queen lead by the spirit of God ordered people to make bonfire and one the time of its burning she followed the smoke to where it was landing and made digging of that particular hilly area where the smoke rests.
The hill with resemblance of Small Mountain was a site of dust collection for many years and hides in its womb the original cross where Jesus was crucified on. After taking out this cross which made many miracles in the later years, part of it was also given to Ethiopia and the Ethiopian Orthodox church attest it still rests in the mountainous Gishen mountains where the church of Saint Mary is located. This is a site of fabulous pilgrimage site for many Ethiopians in the first days of October each year.
Following the above story, Ethiopians welcomes September 26 & 27th colorfully as the only Christian nation to mark the memorial of finding of the cross and call the festival, “Meskel”. September 26th is the day where a big bonfire, called in the native language “Demera” will be made at big squares, churches and villages and will be lit together with music, dancing and spirit of festivity. The direction where the pillar of the fire falls also has a tradition interpretation of peace, war and good harvest.
The next day morning people take from the ash of the fire to make cross sign on their forehead to wish good and all blessings. The continues the usual festivity by dinning, drinking and accompanied with the colorful coffee ceremony.
Meskel is colorfully celebrated around Ethiopia but particularly attended by people of the southern nations and mainly the Gurage, Dorze, Welaita and Sidama people. People of this ethnic group make a long preparation in arranging drinks, foods and the like at home. Also those people of the same tribes working & living in the capital Addis or anywhere else makes a long time preparation saving money, buying clothing and other gifts to their relatives and families.
The most favored food in this festival season is “Kitfo”, a well grinded raw soft beef well minced with homemade butter and will be served by “Kocho”, a kind of pan cake made from false banana. Also the favorite drink is “Tej”, a locally honey made wine & liquor. In the above mentioned parts of Ethiopia the celebration goes for up to two weeks as it is a major even to bring together family members and friends to share a good moment in their life one in a while.
We invite you all to be part of the next Meskel Festival in September 2016.
Interested in joining the Meskel festival ? Please check available tour packages