General information on Meskel Religious celebration in Ethiopia and Addis Ababa
Why Meskel is important religious festival for Ethiopian Orthodox Christians
The word “Meskel” (sometimes spelled as Maskal or Masqal) literally means “CROSS” in Amharic language – the official language of Ethiopia. Meskel (written in Amharic as “መስቀል”) is one of the most famous religious festivals in Ethiopia for Ethiopian Orthodox Christianity followers.
Meskel is celebrated in honor of the discovery of the True Cross on which Jesus Christ has been crucified upon. According to the legend, in 326 AD, the Roman Empress St Elena dreamed (has seen vision) on how to find where the True Cross was hidden. She ordered her people to burn a big bonfire whose smoke had pointed exactly where the True Cross was buried.
Followers of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahido Christianity believe that a big part of the True Cross is found in Ethiopia at Amba Gishen. The Patriarch of Alexandria is believed to hand the Cross (known in Amharic as Gimade Meskelu (ግማደ መስቀሉ)) the Ethiopian Emperor Dawit for his protection of Coptic Christians in Egypt.
Even though this Cross is kept in the Amba Gishen Mountains in Northern Ethiopia, Meskel celebration is held most colorfully in Addis Ababa at the central square in Addis Ababa city (MESKEL SQUARE) which is named after this colorful and vibrant celebration of Meskel Festival.
Meskel Celebration is two days affair. In Addis Ababa, on September 27 afternoon, there will be a big bonfire lit in memory of the one burnt by Empress Elena. High government officials, foreign diplomats, leaders of the Ethiopian Orthodox Christianity, and thousands of colorfully attired Christians attend this ceremony as the Demera (ደመራ) – the bonfire is lit.
During the Meskel Celebrations, young Ethiopian Christians from different churches in Addis Ababa march to Meskel square singing religious songs and dancing.
September 28 is the main Meskel holiday where people enjoy getting together and feast at home.
Ethiopia has a lot of interesting cultural, historical, religious, natural, and archaeological sites. Ethiopia ranks #1 in Africa with sites registered by UNESCO. Meskel celebration is one of Ethiopia’s intangible cultural heritage listed among UNESCO’s World Heritages.
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