By Staff Reporter
September heralds the end of the chilly, cloudy and rainy season in Ethiopia where gushing torrential rains subside and yellow daisies known locally as Adey Abeba carpet the fields and meadows in the country but only to disappear in a couple of weeks. Ye Meskel Wouf, indigenous Ethiopian birds fly over the skylines of cities and villages across the country only ones in September.
September is a month of cultural and religious celebrations in Ethiopia. Two of the celebration, Enkutatash, the Ethiopian New Year which falls on September 11 – or on the 12th in a leap year and Meskel are celebrated in the same month.
which literally means cross has been celebrated in Ethiopia for more than 1,600 years as an outdoor religious festival and is registered at UNESCO in December 2013 as an Intangible World Heritage.
is a religious and cultural event celebrated on the advent of the discovery of the true cross on which Jesus was crucified and the finding of this cross dates back to A.D 326. Legend states that the Queen Helena, mother of Constantine the Great also known as Queen Eleni in Ethiopia, went on a search for the true cross found the location of the cross through a dream after which made a bonfire whose smoke provided her with the direct location of the place where the cross was buried.
At the eve of Meskel, Demera, a tradition in which huge bonfire is prepared attached to a tree with green leaves is burned in commemoration of how the true cross was found through the guidance of a smoke from the bonfire. Heads of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahdo Church at all levels, deacons and Sunday school children sing songs specially prepared for the occasion and encircle the Demera several times upon which the bonfire is set ablaze until it turns into ashes.
As it burns and collapses the direction which the Demera falls is interpreted as a sign of some kind of good fortune or bad omen that could prevail over the locality in which the Demera is burnt. 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 through the night.
On the next day on which is the actual Meskel, people go to the spot of the Demera and use the ashes to mark their foreheads with the sign of the cross. There would be a lot to eat and drink as people celebrate together.
‘YeMeskel Wof’ is used to call the four bird species, namely the northern red bishops, indigo-birds, whydah and widow birds, and yet it has more than ten species under it. These birds are also enjoyed by bird watchers during Meskel.
These birds are endemic to Ethiopia, and do not migrate from one place to another as other birds do. As September, Ethiopia’s first month, is their reproduction season, the colors of their feathers gets changed in order to attract opposite sexes. Due to this change, it looks that they are new birds that appear only at this time of the year.
Meskel also marks a tourist season in Ethiopia. Thousands of tourists from many countries converge on Ethiopia to enjoy the ceremonies during the Meskel celebrations. They particularly enjoy celebrating Meskel in Addis Ababa at Meskel Square which is now built anew.
The cross has a special meaning for Ethiopian Orthodox Christians. They dangle the symbol of the cross on their neck to show that they are Christians and many people both in the urban and rural areas make a gesture of the cross before the food they have readied to eat as a quick gesture of thanksgiving for the food they are ready to eat.
Priests carry various types of cross with their ceremonial staff in conducting mass and other forms of prayers including a ceremonial blessings and sanctification of holy waters meant for healing the sick and casting out evil spirits from persons suspected of being possessed by demons.
Mario De Salvo in his crosses of Ethiopia says that “There is no country in the world that matches Ethiopia in the number of forms and types of its crosses. Ever since Ethiopia’s conversion to Christianity, the cross has appeared almost universally, not only as a liturgical instrument in churches and monasteries, but also in common devotion and in daily life.”
As an important tourist luring season into the country, Meskel should be an occasion in which thousands of tourists not only from Europe, USA and Asia but also from African countries converge into Ethiopia.
Meskel is celebrated in Ethiopia in various cultural contexts across the country. Some might think that Meskel is marked only by the membership of the Ethiopian Tewahedo Orthodox Church but in reality, the season is marked in the entire country as a season of emergence from the dark rainy season into light and an occasion of family reunion and period of reconciliation.
The year Ethiopia celebrates Meskel on the occasion in which terrorist TPLF has vowed to destroy Ethiopia with the support from the internationally organized conspiracy and sacrifices underway to ensure the unity and territorial integrity and on the eve of a formation of a new parliament and government to be formed on the basis of the results of the 6th National Election won by the Prosperity Party.
Meskel is there for celebrated this year with a national determination to face the national challenges with hope and optimism to ascertain socio-economic development, peace, sovergnnity and territorial integrity of the country.
In his message to the people of Ethiopia on his twitter account, Prime Minister Dr. Abiy Ahmed wrote. “ when we talk about the Meskel holiday, there is something that we need to take note that darkness is followed by light, failure to be followed by success and the history of the cross reminds us that nothing that is lost shall perish forever.”