Ethiopia is special and unique from the rest of the world in the reverence and honor manifests to the cross where God the son descended from the heavens was born from the virgin Mary. Church ceremonies are major features of Ethiopian life and there are many church festivals for Ethiopian celebrates some 150 saint days a year and Ethiopia is a land where religion plays such an important part in many people’s lifestyles. The Most religious festivals are the following; Epiphany(Timket), Christmas(Genna), and The Finding of True cross (Meskel) celebrations are the most colorful and biggest festivals across the country.
Meskel - (Finding the True Cross of Christ)
Meskel is one of the most colorful religious Orthodox holidays in Ethiopia falls on 27th September accordingly Gorgorian Calander commemorates the discovery of the True Cross which Jesus Christ was crucified performed miracles, they buried it under ground and damped rubbish on the round where it was buried but when Empres Helana, the mother of Constantine the Great visited Jerusalem in 326, she enquired about the cross of Christ A person named came forward and informed her where the Cross was buried. So the queen had the cross excavated Due to this every September, the Ethiopians are built a big Demera with yellow flowers, bundles of woods, grass and a shape of a cross tied on the top of Bonfire and right after the blessing of high ranking church officials with colorful spiritual music and dance they will burn the big Demera by aiming the smoke will direct the exact location where the true cross is buried. During this time of yellow flowers gloom on mountain and plain the meadows are yellow with the brilliant Meskel daisy. Dancing, feasting, bonfires and even gun salutes mark the occasion. The festival begins by planting a green tree on Meskel eve in town squares and villages market and torches of trees branches tied up together called “Chibo” are used to light the bundle.
Since then, the event of the finding of the true cross of Christ has been made an annual public holiday and thousands of crowds will gather to the social gathering center to be part and parcel of the celebration in order to get more spiritual blessings.
The Ethiopian Orthodox Church annually celebrate Christmas day on January 7 accordingly Gorgonian calendar, to remember Jesus Christ birth, described in the Christian Bible. Christmas is highly colorful in Lalibela because of dual reason Because King Lalibela himself was born in the same day of as the birth of Jesus Christ. The 11 rock hewn churches of Lalibela are curved out from a single rock in the heart of Ethiopia were built on the orders of King Lalibela in the 12th century in the reign of Zagwe dynasty. Lalibela is often described as the Second Jerusalem and upon which tens of thousands of pilgrims converge every year from the four corners of the world for Christmas to attend the most impressive charismas celebration in the town of Lalibela by camping in the hills and grounds around the church. During that time, the spectacular hymn known as BEZA KULU ( Literally meaning the redeemer of all)will be presented by priests and deacons with greater chanting, music and dances being formed a special line around the churches particularly at St. Mary church and this iconic celebration is continued unchanged over the years and be part of the celebration and in dramatic contrast to the brilliant jewel colors of the ceremonial velvets, lights of the candles, traditional costumes of the people, and satins of the priests’ robes and sequined velvet umbrellas, make this festival entirely splendid and unforgettable. Christmas is celebrated seriously by a church service that goes on throughout the night with people moving from one church to another and the celebration is unique to Lalibela and attracts many visitors.
Attending the entire mass celebration of the night will give you a life time memory. Miss it not for next year.
Timket - (Epiphany)
Timket is the biggest festival of the Ethiopian Orthodox church on 19th January of the Gorgerin Calander. falling just 2 weeks after Ethiopian Christmas. It is actually a 3-day affair preceded by the eve of Timket when the dramatic processions take place through a night of fasting, to the great day itself and the commemoration of Christ’s baptism in the Jordan River.
the eve of Timket is known as Ketera, with great ceremony and procession the sacred” Tabot’ a tablet of wood of the contained in the Ark of covenant is taken from each church and held overhead by a priest up to the central area where the ceremony takes place. the Eve of Timket is when the Priests bring out the Tabots – replicas of the 2 tablets of laws received by Moses, which are normally housed inside the altar symbolizing the Ark of the Covenant. Priests bless the water of the pool or river where the next day’s celebration will take place. It is the Tabot, rather than the church building which is consecrated and given extreme reverence. Visitors have the unique chance to experience a festival lost to the rest of the world.
FASIKA - (Easter)
Easter is one of the greatest festivals of the Ethiopian people, celebrated after 55 days lent, when no meat or animal products of any kind including milk and butter. Devout followers of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church offer daily prayers at the Church and this is most solemn Ethiopian festival. Good Friday starts off by church going, and is a day of preparation for the breaking of this long fasting period. In the middle of the night everyone returns home to break their fast, and a chicken is slaughtered animals to start the feasting on Easter holiday.
Debre-Libanos (Celebration of St.Tekle-Haymanot)
Abune Tekle-Haymanot is an Ethiopian saint who founded a major orthodox monastery in 13th century known as Debre-Libanos and he plays a major role to promote Christianity across the country by preaching, and teaching gospel. To revive Christian communities in Ethiopia, he made an extensive journey across the nation and confronted peacefully pagan rulers whom he converted to the Christian faith. The Ethiopian Orthodox Church commemorates the feast of Saint Tekle-Haymanot every year on August 30 with the presence of many believers came to his famous monastery Debre-Libanos from different corners of the country in order to receive a great spiritual blessing.
Hidar- Tsion - (Celebration of St. Mary)
Hidar Tsion festival is a very colorful church celebration in the historic cities of Axum and annually celebrated November 30th or 1st December in a leap year. The final resting places of the Ark of the Covenant is said to believed in Axum a Tsion Maryam church. Virgin is one of the most venerated of all religious figures in Ethiopia. This festival is attended by tens of thousands of people from all over Ethiopia, making it one of the most joyous annual pilgrimages in Axum, the “sacred city of the Ethiopians.
Gishen Mariam - (Feast of the Piece of the Cross)
Gishen is a cross-shaped mountainous area in South Wollo Region at 80 km from the town of Dessie. Gishen is one of the oldest monasteries in the country reputedly founded in the 5th century by King Kaleb. It is strongly believed that the piece of the True Cross on which Jesus Christ was crucified at Keraniyo rested in honor at this plateau and the monastery popularly known by the name Dagmawi Jerusalem or The Seecond Jerusalem and its colorfully celebrated by thousands of the Christian pilgrim every September ,30th accordingly GC.
Kulubi Gabriel - (Celebration of St. Gabriel)
Almost every Christian in Ethiopia has a patron Saint and one of the most popular is Gabriel. The 28th of December and 26th of July are dedicated to the annual and colorful celebration of this Saint. The origin of the Church of St. Gabriel is traced back to the last decade of 19th century and it was RasMekonnen and thoundsands of pilgrimage will attend the entire annual celebration.