Ethiopians are among the most hospitable people in the world. The first surprise will be the variety of festival in the Ethiopians community. To attend a town fiesta is to be welcomed in every home. You also become permanently adopted by the community.

Attend a town fiesta with them. You not only get to know the Ethiopians, you get to know it is to be an Ethiopian.

Ethiopia is a multi-ethic country that harbors different religious beliefs and festivals.
Orthodox Christianity Festival
Muslim festival and
Jewish and a variety of indigenous belief system

In Ethiopia festivals were a time of much feasting, enjoyment and almsgiving when agricultural labor was suspended. The ban of working on Saints days applied not only to agricultural labor, but also to most other work, it was indeed popularly held, that any structure erected on such a day would “infallibly entail a curse from above”.
The more important Saints day were the occasion of colorful ceremonial which brought excitement in to the dullness of people lives on such days the Tabot of all the neighboring churches were taken, covered with silk or other colored cloth, and carried on the heads of priests to honor the saint celebrated that day.

Saint days which were celebrated monthly rather than annually as in Europe, were so frequent that no country had as many of them as Ethiopia.

The priest carrying the Tabot was preceded by the churches lower clergy, dressed in rich clothes, with crowns of Gold, Silver or brass on their heads, Each ringing a bell and bearing a long stick with a cross at one End, and singing a joyful song.
They were accompanied in front by Trumpets and in the rear by the high-priest and other important clergy followed by the populace at large. The women of the area mean while formed themselves in to different parties and sang, danced, and clapped their hands to the accompaniment of a drum beaten at both ends by a girl who carried it on a strap around her neck.

In Ethiopia pilgrimage sites are common in most parts of the country. They may be restricted to one ethnic group or geographical area. Pilgrimages may also attract people across boundaries, either when people, such as the Borena, live on both side of the border (Ethiopia and Kenya), or when the celebrity of a centre, such as Sheik Hussein, attracts peoples from abroad pilgrimages may cut across ethnic boundaries. Pilgrimage may be clearly associated with a single religion, like the pilgrimages to Aksum, Laibela and Debre Libanos in the Orthodox Christian tradition. The monotheistic religious in Ethiopia are particularly accommodating and syncretistic, absorbing elements of traditional religious or coexisting side by side with them, ancient or modern cult’s often in corporate elements of Christianity or Islam or eleven both as is visible at Faraqasa.

Ethiopian New Year
The day of St. Yohannes this coincided with the Ethiopian New Year and the beginning of Meskerem, the first month of the year also had its distinctive ceremonies.

Boys and Girls gathered flowers to make nosegays which they took to the higher sort of people from whom they received in a return a present, or were given something to eat and Drink.

Festival began at dawn when people presented each other with bunches of wild flowers, Inkutatash, literally “take this present” a phrase not, however, used on any other occasion such gifts elicited a present in return. (Tour itinerary)

The Meskel is a procession that commemorates Saint Helena’s discovery of the original cross where Christ was crucified. The feast is celebrated on 27th of September. During The eve of Maskel, vast bonfires are lit country wide, and piled high in town squares. Boys and girls began to flock in gangs, singing and dancing about with the long bundles of dried sticks lighted like torches and spectacled with them throughout the town and the celebrations continue until dawn. In Addis Ababa, the celebrations take place in Maskal Square, to the southeast of the City centre.

This festival also coincides with the mass blooming of the golden yellow ‘Meskal daisies’, Called ‘Adey Abeba’ in Amharic. People of all ages are seen in the streets carrying fresh bunches of yellow flowers. The festival celebrated with the greatest pomp and show.

In the middle ages, the Patriarch of Alexandria gave to the Ethiopian Emperor Dawit half of the True Crossin return for the protection afforded to the Coptic Christian. A fragment of the True Cross is reputed to be held at the Gishen Mariam Church which is about 70 km to the northward of Dessie.

Irrecha is one of the intangible cultural heritages of the Oromo people. Once a year the Oromo people celebrate the Irecha around Lake Hora near Debre ziet. This takes place on the first Sunday after Maskal (September 28) and the ceremony centers on sacred trees, particularly around an ancient fig tree. Worshippers ask for favors, fertility, healthy and good fortune. In this celebration more than million people attended from all overcall Ethiopia. The Irrech celebration is related to the worship and thanks giving practice of the Oromo’s, to their God.

Led by the prominent figure in the community Abba Gadda, the participating communities carry bunches of lovely grasses and flowers in their hands- praise bless and prey to God (Waqaa). The participating women dress cultural dresses and carry Siiqee (Cultural women stick) and men dresses in cultural suits and carrying Aroresaa(Cultural men’s stick) heart fully sings the songs that glorify the power of God and the decoration of the season. Young people usually use the opportunity to select their girl mate and exchange gift. (Tour itinerary)

Ganna or Ethiopian Christmas
Ganna, Celebration of the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem, it falls on 7 January. The events are retold through words, much of praying, singing and feasting. On Christmas, a special game is played by some Ethiopians that similar to field hockey, it is said to derive from an old story that shepherds, brimming with joy to hear of the birth of Jesus Christ, spontaneously used their hooked staffs to make up a game that expressed their happiness. It is called Ganna was a day of much praying, singing and feasting. (Tour itinerary)

Timkat or Ephipahny
The Epiphany, or Visit of the Three Magi, is celebrated on 19 January. Celebration began on the eve of the holiday, a day fasting ‘Ketera’, when the priests bearing their Tabot (Replica of the Ark of the Covenant) and church paraphernalia, went down to a river, spring or pool for a mass baptism which commemorate the Baptism of Christ.

Feasting began that day at sun-set, the whole ensuring night was spent in alternate prayer, hymn singing, and religious dancing , after which , before sunrise the sacrament was administered, through many of the priests. The chief priest then raised his hands over the water and blessed it, whereupon the people would push themselves into bathe. The great men and priests, however, did not immerse themselves, but were instead sprinkled the water to obligate the necessity. At the conclusion of the ceremony the women and deacons danced and sang. While the men engaged in various sports, including ‘Guks’or traditional Ethiopian hockey and it is possible for young men to find their future brides at these festivities. On the following day which was dedicated to the Arch angel St Mikael there were further church ceremonies, as well as much feasting in which the priest were always “well fed by their devout parishioners”.

Feburary Moulid (Birth of the Prophet)
Moulid is a term used to refer to the observance of the birthplace of the Islamic prophet Mohammed which occurs in Rabi-al-awwal.
Moulid is derived from the Arabic root word, meaning to give birth, bear a child, descendant. The prophet peace and blessings of Allah be upon him was born in the city of Mecca in the year of Elephant.

It is considered that most perfect expression of love and honor for him is by the following him, obeying him, carrying out his commands, upholding and reviving his Sunnah both inwardly and outwardly. (Tour itinerary)

Eid al-Adha (“Feast of the Sacrifice”)
Eid al-Adha, is the Muslim festival that commemorates the willingness of the patriarch Abraham to sacrifice his son Ishmael at the command of Allah (God). Eid al-Adha takes place on the 10th day of Dhu al-Hijja, the 12th month of the Islamic lunar calendar and the month of the annual Hajj. Because Eid al-Adha commemorates Abraham’s sacrifice, giving and sharing are the essence of the festival. All Muslims who can afford to do so sacrifice a sheep or other animal and distribute the meat to relatives or the poor. The sacrificed sheep represents the ram that God allowed Abraham to substitute for his son. The sacrifice occurs on the first day of the three-day festival, after which most pilgrims depart from Mecca. For those who have not made the pilgrimage to Mecca, Eid al-Adha is a time for visiting the graves of relatives and for visiting with family and friends.
Eid al-Adha is one of two major Islamic holidays (eid). The other is Eid al-Fitr, the Feast of Fast-Breaking, which follows Ramadan, the month of fasting.

Eid al-Fitr (“Feast of Fast-Breaking”)
Eid al-Fitr is also a Muslim festival that follows Ramadan, the month of fasting. The three-day religious festival of Eid al-Fitr celebrates the end of Ramadan, a month of prayer and of abstinence from eating, drinking, smoking, and sexual relations from sunrise to sunset. The celebration begins with the sighting of the new moon of Shawwal, the 10th month in the Islamic lunar calendar, which signals the end of Ramadan, the 9th month.
During Eid al-Fitr Muslims greet neighbors, relatives, and friends at the mosque or on the street, exchanging hugs and wishing one another “Eid Mubarak” (“Blessed Holiday”). Children may receive presents or gifts of money from their parents and other relatives. Eid al-Fitr is also a time for visiting friends and relatives. (Tour itinerary)

Sheikh Hussein caverns pilgrimage
The pilgrimage used to take place once a year in the month of February to mark the anniversary of Sheikh Hussein death, but now a second pilgrimage loosely linked with Maulid (a pan-Islamic festival them marks the birth of the Prophet mohammed) occurs later in the year.
The rituals last for approx two weeks when they are over the vast crowds of people who have gathered-rarely less than fifty thousand – disperse across the country side. Some, for whom this has been a once –in-a –life time experience, return to their homes. Others, however-those who know no other existence than the open road- make their way south through the bale foothills to another shrine devoted to another Muslim saint.
Pilgrimages come on foot, on horse back and by mule from distances of up to 600miles to pay homage to Sheikh Hussein, the 13th century mystic prophet who lies buried in the town of the same name.

This pilgrimage takes place twice a year, once in February- March to celebrate the anniversary of the death of Sheikh Hussein and once in August- September to celebrate the birth of the prophet Mohammed on each occasion, approximately fifty thousand people come from all parts of the horn of Africa and stay for about 2 weeks.

The tomb of Shekh Hussien is covered with colorful cloths to mark the occasion of a celebration. Pilgrims enter the tomb daily to benefit from the healing power of this ancient miracle worked. (Tour itinerary)

Fasika or Easter
Easter is the most important religious ceremony of Ethiopians Christian.
Service began the evening before Palm Sunday when the priests would start their matins shortly after midnight and keep up their singing and graceful dancing, with all their religious pictures uncovered, until daylight. They then came out with a cross and palms which they distributed among their flock. Everyone then walked in procession round the building, after which they re-entered the church and the priest with a cross is aid mass while the other sang.

Throughout the Holy week long services were held in all churches on Thursday at the hour of vespers the clergy performed Maundy, or the service of ritual washing of feet.

The superior of the church sitting on a three legged stool with a towel round his waist and a large basin of water before him, began by washing the ffet of the clergy, and latter of everyone else in the church. This done the priests started singing, and continual all night, the clergy, monks and deacons remaining in the building without partaking of either food or drink until after mass on Saturday.

Good Friday,
On Friday at midday the clergy decorated the church with whatsoever crimson or other brocades they possessed, and erected a Crucifix covered with a small curtain they then sang all night and read the psalms all day after which they all threw themselves on the ground.
Prostrate, buffeted, each other knocked their heads against the walls, and punched them weeping “so bitterly” this lamentation often lasted “quite two hours” after which two priests, each holding a small whip with five thongs, went to each of the church doors and began scourging the congregation who for this purpose had stripping themselves from the waist upwards, as they left the building. Some received only a few strokes, but other intentionally waited to receive many. Some old men and women remained being beaten for half an hour or so until their blood ran, after which they slept in the courtyard.

At midnight the priest began singing, after which they said mass, and took Holy Communion. They then recited matins, and before morning made a procession before saying another mass at dawn. Easter services were decency and were followed by a very solemn procession in which the church men carried so many and such large candles there were.

On Easter Sunday the priest went around the town procession, carrying crosses and church ornaments and singing in praise of God and the person they were about to visit . in return they would be invited, during the following month, by all those whom they had visited, and who would give them a feast, perhaps killing two or three cows for the occasion.

Time of rejoicing that recalls the disciples' discovery that Jesus was alive, and that he had been resurrected; many churches keep a vigil throughout Saturday night so that they can greet Easter Day with services, family meals, and the exchange of flowers and eggs. (Tour itinerary)

Debre Damo (Feast of Saint Aregawi)
Orthodox Tewahedo Christian celebrate the feast of Saint (Abune) Aregawi, on October 14 Ethiopian Calendar (October 24 Gregorian calendar) which conclude in a pilgrimage to Debre Damo, about 25 kilometers from Adigrat, from all over the country. (Tour itinerary)

Kulubi (Feast of Saint Gabriel)
The feast of Saint Gabriel (Kulubi Gabriel), the Archangel, is celebrated on December 19 Ethiopian calendar (28 Dec Gregorian calendar) and 26 Jul, 2010/Hamle 19/ which culminates in a pilgrimage to Kulubi, about 68 kms from Dire dawa city. Orthodox Tewahedo Christians mark the celebration with colorful processions and ceremonies. Pilgrims (about 100,000 followers) walk up the hills to the church to fulfill a vow and give gifts to the church. Some pilgrims carry heavy rocks on their back up the hill to the church. St Gabriel is the Patron Saint who guards over homes and churches. There is huge pilgrimage to St. Gabriel’s church at Kulubi hill. Many pilgrims carry heavy burdens as penance, children are brought to be baptized, and offerings are made to be distributed to the poor. The church was built in 1880. Kulubi is the largest pilgrimage place in Ethiopia. (Tour itinerary)

Buhe – 21 August
Bands of small boys call at each house, singing and jostling until they are given some fresh bread or money. In the evening, bonfires are lit outside each home. (Tour itinerary)

Mariam Zion/Hidar Zion/- Celebration of Axum St Marry
One of the most fascinating and advanced legendary (we believe real history) of Ethiopia locate the Ark of the Covenant in Axum. It is widely believed that the Ark is currently being held in the church of Saint Mary of Zion, guarded by a monk known as the “keeper of the Ark”, who claims to have it in his possession. According to the Axum Christian community, they acquired the Ark during the reign of King Solomon from Israel.

The festival is attended by tens of thousands of people from all over the world during 27- 31 November annually, making it one of the most joyous annual pilgrimages in Axum, the “sacred city of the Ethiopians”. (Tour itinerary)

Shashamene is home to a Rastafarian community from the Caribbean. The late Emperor Haile Selassie I granted them land here in perpetuity in recognition of the support and solidarity of the people of African origin in the Caribbean for Ethiopia at the time of the Fascist aggression in 1935, when Mussolini’s Italian forces invaded the country.

Ethiopia is the spiritual home- if not the geographical base- of Rastafarianism, a religious and political movement which began in Jamaica in the 1920s, and has spread throughout the Caribbean, North America and Western Europe. Hundreds of thousands of people of Afro- Caribbean origin regard Ras Tafari or the Emperor Haile Silassie, as he later styled himself as the Messiah and champion of the black race, because he was the king of the only African country never colonized. Rastafarianism, who identify with the Israelites of the Old Testament, await their own ‘exodus’; redemption for all people of African descent by repatriation back to Africa.

Haile Selassie, the lion of Judah, they believe, is not dead, and one day will lead them home. The most obvious features of Rastafarian culture are their distinctive reggae music and their ‘dreadlocks’; long braids of hair, often worn under caps in the Ethiopian National color; red, yellow, and green. But many of them also follow strict dietary laws, and have developed a form o religious mysticism which blends together African and Old Testament practices.

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