The Blessed Smoke Tells the Secret

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By Dessalegn Kassa (ENA)

September is the unique month for Ethiopians as it heralds the New Year on September 11th while in the case of leaps year it falls on September 12th in which the rainy season come to an end instead the sun starts to trickle its shine even if Ethiopia endows with 13 months of sunshine.

September is also the month that believed to gift hope, blessing, prosperity, forgiveness, and togetherness among other precious values while most parts of  landscape across the country gets green accompanied with flowers, specially “Adey abeba” which is yellow eye-catch flower than ever any seasons.  

After two weeks, the herald of this Ethiopian New Year – 2013, the grand outdoor festival, Meskel feast comes which commemorates the discovery of the True Cross.

The celebration of Meskel which is one of UNISCO registered intangible heritages of Ethiopia, starts on the eve of Meskel with the lighting of huge bonfire planted in town squares and streets known as “Demera” on 16 September across the nation where crowd of people gathered.

The bonfire ceremony is held based on the dream that Queen Eleni had in which she was told to make a bonfire so that the smoke would show her where the True Cross was buried. As indicated in religious scripts, she was directed by smoke from a burning fire to the location of the Cross. After rigorous praying for the guidance, God led her to the Cross. The blessing smoke emanated from the bonfire told the secret to the queen where the holy cross was hidden.  

At the national level, the burning of the bonfire in takes place at Meskel Square where the place is named after the celebration.  Huge gathering from followers of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church dressed mostly in white, choir groups composed of Sunday school students and priests with religious songs and flaming torches made of wax make the festival colorful.

Maskel is celebrated nationwide regardless of age, gender, language or ethnicity. In addition to the Patriarch and clergies of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, tourists across the globe, the diplomatic community, high level government officials and hundreds of thousands of residents of the capital partaker the celebration. There is a belief that everyone who got the opportunity to part take the festival would be blessed by the Holy Cross. It is also one of the venues where families get together after a yearlong departs due to various social and economic reasons.

However, this year’s MESKEL will not be celebrated as it used to be due to the outbreak of COVID-19. The Festival will be observed in adherence to COVID-19 Precaution. Thus, the festival is expected be observed with limited events and audience. The government and Church officials have called on the public to celebrate the day accordingly.

Religious fathers urge all Ethiopians to make their hearts clean from hatred and vengeance during the celebration as Maskel is a festival that promotes reconciliation, social cohesion and peaceful coexistence.

Social science researches also agree that the festival plays vital role to building peace and cohesion among Ethiopians as it preaches peace, unity and forgiveness.

UNESCO has inscribed Meskel, feast of the finding of the True Cross in which Jesus Christ was crucified, on the list of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of in 2013. According to UNESCO, inscription of Meskel festival on the Representative List could enhance the visibility of intangible cultural heritage and promote inter-cultural dialogue among the multi-ethnic population of Ethiopia as well as other communities internationally.