Holidays- Timkat and Christmas
Meskel (Finding of the True Cross): 26/27 September
Genna (Christmas): 6/7 January
Timket (Epiphany): 18/19 January
Fasika (Easter): date varies
Eid-Ul-Fitr-end of the fast :date varies
Hidar Zion (Axum): November 29/30
Palm Sunday (Axum): one week prior to Easter
Gishen Mariam: 1st October
MESKEL (Finding of the True Cross)
Meskel is celebrated by dancing, feasting and lighting a massive bonfire known in Ethiopian tradition as “Damera”. Meskel commemorates the finding of the True Cross in the 4th century when Empress Helena, mother of Constantine the Great, discovered the True Cross on which Christ was crucified. The feast is celebrated in Ethiopia on the 17th September Ethiopian calendar (27th September Gregorian calendar), 6 months after the discovery of the True Cross. The celebration of Meskel signifies the presence of the True Cross at mountain of Gishen Mariam monastery and also symbolises the events carried out by Empress Helena.
ENKUTATASH (NEW YEAR)The Ethiopian New Year falls on the 1st September Ethiopian calendar (September 11th Gregorian Calendar) at the end of the Ethiopian rain season and is called Enkutatash. 1st September is also celebrated to mark the commemoration of St. John the Baptist. Enkutatash (Ethiopian New Year) is not only a religious holiday but is also a day for young boys and girls to sing and dance and for exchanging New Year greetings and cards among urban inhabitants.
GENNA (CHRISTMAS) Year after year Christians recall the story of the Christ child in a manger, shepherds on Judean hills witnessing the celestial song of angels as they pronounced the Long Expected One had come.
The Ethiopian Christmas (Genna or Ledet) falls on the 29th December Ethiopian calendar (7 January Gregorian calendar). Christmas is celebrated after 43 days fasting known as Advent, with a spectacular procession, which begins at 6 a.m. and lasts until 9 a.m. After the mass service, people go home to break the fast with the meat of chicken or lamb or beef accompanied with injera and the traditional drinks (i.e. tella or tej).
Timket (Epiphany) is one of the greatest festival in the Ethiopian Orthodox Church calendar. It commemorates Christ’s Baptism by St. John in the Jordan River. Timket is celebrated in Ethiopia on the 11th January Ethiopian calendar (19th January Gregorian calendar), two weeks after Genna (Ethiopian Christmas), beginning on the Eve of Timket with colourful processions and ceremonies ending on the 12th January (20th January Gregorian calendar).
In Timket, Tella and Tej are brewed, special bread is baked called “Himbash” (in Tigrigna) “Ambasha” (in Amharic), and sheep are slaughtered to mark the three-day celebration.
Fasiga (Easter) is celebrated after 55 days severe Lent fasting. Orthodox Christians do not eat meat, diary products or breakfast for the whole 55 days.
On Easter eve people celebrate and go to church with candles which are lit during a colourful Easter Mass service which begins at about 6 p.m. and ends at about 2 a.m. Everyone goes home to break the fast with the meat of chicken or lamb, slaughtered the previous night after 6 p.m., accompanied with injera and traditional drinks. Like Christmas, Easter is also a day of family re-union, an expression of good wishes with exchange of gifts (i.e. lamb, goat or loaf of bread).
HIDAR ZION – (Celebration of St. Mary)
The Virgin is one of the most venerated of all religious figures in Ethiopia.
About 33 days are annually dedicated to different celebrations in the commemoration of Mary. “Hidar Zion” is associated with the presence of the Ark of the Covenant in Axum and the belief that the Ark itself is a symbolism to Her womb. This festival is attended by tens of thousands of people from all over Ethiopia, making it one of the most joyous annual pilgrimages in Axum, the “sacred city of the Ethiopians.”
Eid-Ul-Fitr-end of the fast
Ramadan is the holy month for all Muslims and has a special place in the Islamic calendar. Ramadan is known as God’s own month and is followed by all Muslims religiously. Ramadan is also known as the month of fasting when fasting for all adult Muslims is mandatory. But Ramadan is not just about fasting but incorporates worship and doing good deeds also. During the month of Ramadan, Muslims fasts during the day during the month of Ramadan and break their fast only at dusk.
Eid-ul-Fitr commemorates the month of Ramadan, marking the end of the month-long fast. Fitr means to break symbolizing the break of the fasting period and of all evil habits thereafter. For Muslims, Eid ul Fitr is a joyful celebration of the achievement of enhanced piety. It is a day of forgiveness, moral victory and peace, of congregation, fellowship, brotherhood and unity.
It occurs on the tenth day of the Islamic month of Dhul Hijja. It is one of two Eid festivals that Muslims celebrate. Eid ul-Adha is celebrated by Muslims worldwide as a commemoration of Prophet Ibrahim’s willingness to sacrifice his son(Ishmael) for (Allah) God. Others celebrate Eid-ul Adha as it marks the end of the Pilgrimage or Hajj for the millions of Muslims who make the trip to Mecca each year