Asige and Maramawit dancing for Meskel celebration

One of the main Ethiopian Orthodox feasts, Meskel (Finding of the True Cross), is observed over two days. According to legend, the cross on which Christ was crucified was found in the year 326 by Queen Helena (Empress Helen), the Mother of Constantine the Great. She asked for assistance after being unable to locate the Holy Sepulchre and received guidance from a burning fire’s smoke as to where the cross was interred. Queen Helena lighted torches to celebrate her victory after uncovering the Holy Cross. In exchange for providing Coptic Christians with safety during the Middle Ages, the Patriarch of Alexandria granted the Ethiopian Emperor Dawit half of the Meskel (Finding of the True Cross). Approximately 70 kilometers northwest of Dessie, in the Gishen Mariam, is where it is said that a piece of the True Cross is kept. The celebration, which is characterized by feasting, dancing, and boisterous religious processions, often begins on the eve of Meskel with the lighting of cone-shaped bonfires in town squares and markets. Meskel Flowers, which are yellow daisies, are arranged on top of long tree branches that have been linked together. The priests, believers, religious, and political figures in the procession arrange the branches into a bundle they call “Demera,” and then light it on fire. As they circle the “Demera,” the people throw burning torches they are carrying at it while humming a unique Meskel song. Additionally, tiny “Demeras” are constructed around around individual residences. The “Demera” is burned until it is completely reduced to ashes. The direction in which the “Demera” falls as it burns and crumbles is considered an omen or portent. When rain does, the year is typically predicted to be prosperous. Rain is typically expected to fall to put out the fire. The festivities typically last all night long in villages.

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