Holiday of Bonfires

Mired in political tensions, Ethiopians across the country celebrated Mesqel on Thursday, September 27, 2018, the annual festival of the faithful believe is the finding of the true holy cross of Christ.

The most iconic part of the holiday is Demera, where a large pyre constructed with a cross mounted on its top is lit on fire on the eve of the festival.

In the capital, tens of thousands of people wearing traditional white dresses gathered in the late afternoon at Mesqel Square. They were joined by hundreds of priests and deacons in white robes carrying large crosses and decorated umbrellas and by debteras, choir members of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, who sing the ancient chants and dance to perform rites from antiquity to the accompaniment of drums, prayer sticks and sistrums.

Considering the bouts of violence Addis Abeba as seen as the rest of the nation, has seen in recent weeks, the security checks were stringent this year. Two or three checkpoints greeted participants as they made their way from all directions of the city. The celebrations were concluded in the evening, and  there were no disturbances throughout the city, according to the police.

Although the Mesqel festivities held at Mesqel Square are the most popular in the nation, other areas in the southern regions and cities in the north like Gonder, Debre Berhan and Adigrat hold large, colourful and cheerful celebrations. In fact, Mesqel is recognised as a holiday where domestic tourism booms as a result of urbanites travelling to more rural areas of the country to celebrate with family and relatives.

Mesqel is recognised as an intangible world heritage by the United Nations Educational, Scientific & Cultural Organisation (UNESCO). It is also the first festival of the year that leads to Timqet, the Ethiopian Epiphany and Genna, the Ethiopian Christmas. These unique festivals are significant contributors to the nation’s tourism coffers.

Published on Sep 29,2018 [ Vol 19 ,No 961]



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