Russia spiritual singers at Meskel square

Based on the idea that Queen Eleni, as she is known, got a revelation in a dream, the Meskel celebration includes the blazing of a big bonfire, or Demera. She was instructed to start a bonfire, and the smoke would point out the location of the True Cross’s grave. She then gave the order for a massive pile of wood to be built by the citizens of Jerusalem. The bonfire was ignited after frankincense was added to it, and the smoke soared high into the air before returning to the ground precisely where the Cross had been interred. Local customs dictate that this Demera-procession occurs in the early evening either the day before Meskel or on the actual day. One reason for this festival’s prominence in the church’s calendar is that it is thought that a piece of the real Cross was transported from Egypt to Ethiopia. It is said that it is held in Amba Geshen, which has a cross-shaped layout itself. The finding of the True Cross is historically thought to have occurred in March, according to the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, but Meskel was changed to September to avoid hosting a festival during Lent and because the church in Jerusalem that honours the True Cross was dedicated in September. As was also the case in Israel, the most ancient significance of these feasts was undoubtedly seasonal.

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