The event of the year!

If there is one event not to be missed in Ethiopia, it is Meskel. The Meskel festival is a religious holiday and in Addis Ababa, the celebrations centre around Meskel Square.

How it all began

The festival commemorates an event in the fourth century, when Queen Helena (mother of the Roman Emperor Constantine) is believed to have found the True Cross on which Christ was crucified. It is known as the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross.

During the celebrations a bonfire is lit. This act commemorates how Queen Helena came to find the True Cross. According to tradition, Helena had a revelation during a dream that the smoke from a bonfire would show her where the True Cross was buried. She ordered the people of Jerusalem to bring wood and make a huge pile. Smoke rose high up into the sky and drifted towards where three crosses were buried; one of them was the cross used to crucify Jesus Christ. Empress Helena is said to have given a piece of the True Cross to all churches, including the Ethiopian Church.

Modern day celebrations

It is no wonder thousands of people make the pilgrimage to Meskel Square to join in this vibrant celebration. People spend most of the day and night dancing and singing. Finally a bonfire, made from sticks and the beautiful Meskel daisies, is lit by Abune Paulos, the Patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church. The smoke soars into the sky and can be seen for miles and miles.

Addisu can hardly contain himself; he has a VIP ticket for this year’s festival.  It is an honour and a privilege. You can tell from the smile on his face how excited he is. This means instead of standing in the audience looking down at the dancing and celebrations, he is on the main floor amongst all the action.

Addisu’s personality shines through on this special day. He is so very excited. He proudly dresses in the white traditional clothes which are worn and cheekily says: “Do I look beautiful? I am beautiful”.