A very important festival on both the Ethiopian and Eritrean Orthodox Church calendars, the Meskel is celebrated annually on either September 27 or September 28 in a leap year with this year’s falling today.
The festival, which officially takes place at the Meskel Square in Addis Ababa commemorates the discovery of the True Cross in the fourth century by Roman Empress Saint Helena (Queen Eleni). The True Cross, according to the Orthodox churches, is the cross on which Jesus Christ was crucified.
Thousands gather in Addis Ababa to celebrate, Demera, the eve of the Meskel (Finding of the True Cross): https://t.co/cIcI70TNxd#Ethiopia #MelkamMeskel pic.twitter.com/FapFOmrzCG
— Ethiopian Embassy UK ???? (@EthioEmbassyUK) September 26, 2018
The celebration is characterized by the burning of a large bonfire as well as procession known as Demera. According to belief, Queen Eleni, through a revelation in a dream was instructed to start a bonfire with the assertion that the smoke from it would direct her to where the True Cross was buried.
Per rituals, the Demera takes place either on the evening before the festival or on the actual day.
Wow ? Spectacular
Addis Ababa The Beautiful ??
Meskel celebrations at Meskel Square, Yesterday
— Liya’ና B. Tefferi (@LiyanaTefferi) September 27, 2018
The festival, which is attended by religious leaders as well as various public figures is also marked with speeches and preaching and finally ended with a feast.
The ashes from the bonfire, which is decorated with daisies before the celebration is subsequently collected the next day and used by believers to mark the sign of the cross on their foreheads.
Also celebrated in the Eritrean capital of Asmara, Meskel is a religious holiday in the Orthodox Churches of both countries.
Below is a video of the celebrations shared on social media: