Meskel Celebration Tour (September 26 & 27 Each Year). Major Ethiopian Orthodox Festival

HISTORY

Meskel (Finding of the True Cross), one of the major Ethiopian Orthodox festivals is celebrated for two days. Legend has it that in the year 326, Queen Helena (Empress Helen) the Mother of Constantine the Great, discovered the cross upon which

OBSERVAAANCE

Marked with feasting, dancing, and lively religious processions, the occasion usually starts on the eve of Meskel with the preparing of a cone-shaped bonfire in town squares and markets. Long tree branches are tied together and yellow daisies called Meskel Flowers are placed on top.

The branches are gathered together in a bundle called “Demera” and set ablaze by the procession of priests, believers, religious and political leaders. The people toss flaming torches which they are carrying at the “Demera”, singing a special Meskel song as they circle it. Around individual homes, little “Demeras” are built as well.

The “Demera” burns until it turns entirely into ashes. As it burns and collapses the direction in which the “Demera” falls is interpreted as a sign or portent. Rain is usually expected to fall to put out the fire and when it does, the year is expected to be a prosperous one. In most villages, the celebration continues throughout the night.

The next day, which is the actual Meskel, people often goes to the spot of the “Demera” and uses the ashes to mark their foreheads with the sign of the cross.

One of the significant occurrences of the festival is the coinciding with the mass blooming of Meskel Flowers, the golden-yellow daisies.

Please note : For this and our other tours, we offer a 1 – 2 day stopover in Addis Ababa, where there are many amazing sights to see. If you come in on a long haul overnight flight, this will give you time to recover from your jetlag before heading off on your selected tour.

Please refer to our Optional tour of Addis Ababa tour for details. You can choose whether to spend one or two days in Addis, and also which places you would like to visit. This tour could also be added onto the end of another tour.

Please note that this tour can be incorporated with other tours, but the dates for the Meskel Festival are fixed, so that if you wish to participate in this Festival, as well as travel around the country, you need to be in Ethiopia during late September.

Itinerary

Day 1 – Site seeing in Addis Ababa, before joining the celebrations late in the day. (18 km journey)

If you arrive in Addis Ababa in the morning, you will be able to have short visits to one or two of the main attractions of the city: National Museum, Holy Trinity Cathedral, Mercato Market and Entoto Mountains. Later in the day, we join the crowds gathering to celebrate Meskel.  There are two parts to the Meskel celebrations. The first is Demera (September 26), in which bonfires are built, topped by a cross to which flowers are tied. The flowers are Meskel daisies. During the evening, the Patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church orchestrates the lighting ceremony. After the bonfires are blessed, they are lit, and dancing and singing begins around them. Priests in full ceremonial dress sing around the bonfire. When the Demera is set on fire there is an inner feeling of brightness for all those who are around it. Little Demera are also built in individual houses or villages. After some time, splinters from the bundles of burning wood collapse. Which direction they fall in is very significant. Interpretations are soon conjectured as to whether the harvest is going to be plentiful or not, or whether there will be peace all year round, etc. At the closing of the Demera, a rain shower is expected to fall to help put the fire out. If the rain falls and the fire is extinguished, there is a belief that the year will be prosperous.

 

Day 2 – Further participation in the ceremonies. (20 km journey)

The second part, on the following day, is a real celebration of Meskel. This day is observed with plenty of food and drink, as believers go to the spot of the Demera and, using ashes from the fire, mark their heads with the sign of the cross. The festival coincides with the mass blooming of the golden yellow Meskel daisies.

Today we join in the celebrations as the local people gather together to eat and drink.

The day ends with a drop off at Bole International Airport or your Hotel.

Duration

2 Days

Transportation

4WD vehicle