Meskel-The finding of  The True Cross

Date: 26 or 27 September
Location: Addis Ababa.

Meskel, or cross, is a special festival to commemorate the finding of the true cross on which Jesus Christ was crucified. According to the legend, the Byzantine Empress Elleni was lead to the place where the cross was hidden by smoke from a fire which she had been instructed to make in a dream. It has also has pre-Christian origins, to mark the end of the rainy season. In most places, as in Addis Ababa, the festival is celebrated on the eve.

In Addis Ababa, young men and women, dressed in white with red sashes, form processions and make their way, singing and dancing, to Meskal Square in the centre of town. They are joined by hundreds of priests and deacons from churches around the city, who bring drums and the ornate crosses used in religious ceremonies.

As it gets dark, the demera, or bonfire made up of dried sticks and bedecked with yellow flowers, is lit, commemorating the action taken by Empress Helleni. The direction is which the bonfire falls is said to indicate what will happen to the country in the year to come. Celebrations and street parties continue throughout the town into the night, with each neighbourhood having its own demera.

It is a time of the year when people try to return to their villages, to celebrate the festival with families and friends.

We can integrate this festival into a longer tour, whether history and culture, visits to the Omo, bird watching, trekking and other activities.

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