Meskel (The Finding of True Cross)
Meskel, one of the vibrant religious festivals of Ethiopia, is registered by UNESCO as a world heritage. It is commemorates the discovery of the cross Jesus was crucified by the mother of Constantine the Great, Empress Helen (NigistEneny). It is annually celebrated on 27th of September by Christians all over Ethiopia. On the eve of the festival, people come together to a common area, usually in the church compound, to burn bonfires (locally called Demera).
Hidar Tsion festival
HidarTsion festival is vibrantly celebrated in Axum every year on November 30 in commemoration to the Holy Virgin St. Mary (the coming of the Ark of Covenant to Axum, Ethiopia). The Ark is alleged to be taken from Israel to Ethiopia by Menelik I, the son of King Solomon (Israel) and Queen of Sheba (Ethiopia). It is attended by hundreds and thousands of pilgrims from the four corners of the country.
Epiphany, locally also called Timket(immersion in water), is one of the colorful religious festivals celebrated by followers of Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church. It is annually held on January 19 (Tirr 11). On the eve of the festival, also called “Ketera” (to mean to make a small dam for the festival), Tabots(replicas of the Arc of Covenant) from all churches are carried to a water body accompanied by the mass. On the day of Timket, priests sprinkle the blessed water over the congregation. It symbolizes the baptism of Jesus Christ by John the Baptist on the River Jordan.
Ethiopian Christmas or locally called Genna or Lidetis colorfully celebrated on January 7 in commemoration to the birth of Jesus Christ. It marks the end of the two-month fasting period by Orthodox Christians. It is vibrantly celebrated in all parts of Ethiopia, especially in Lalibela. The festival is held on the rock hewn churches of Lalibela with colorful religious chanting, dancing and singing. GennaChewata (Ethiopian hokey game) is the other cultural field game played during this festival by the young men.
Hosaena (Palm Sunday)
This festival is held in commemoration to the entry of Jesus Christ to a temple in Jerusalem on the back of a donkey, spreading palm (Zenbaba) on the road. It is celebrated a week before Easter (on Sunday). Orthodox Christian priests offer palm leaves to the church followers. The feast is colorfully celebrated in Axum by thousands of domestic and international visitors.
Ashenda, one of the open air religious festivals in Tigray, is celebrated from 25-30th of August in commemoration of St. Mary. It marks the end of a two-weeks fasting period called TsomeFilseta. It is equivalent to Shadey festival which is celebrated in Amhara region with the same theme. The name Ashenda is to mean “a tall grass” in Tigrigna language. It is celebrated in different parts of Tigray once in a year from 25-30th of August principally by girls/young women putting skirts made from a tall green grass on top of their cultural dresses. In Axum, the festival is also called Ayniwari and is celebrated from 23—25th of August. During the festival, a group of girls come together to sing cultural songs.
MihilaTselot is mass praying activity carried out by the people of Aksum for the first 7 days of every month (early in the morning at 4 A.M) where a replica of the Ark of the Covenant is brought out before sunrise and placed on a pedestal surrounded by a turquoise painted stone wall. It is a mass praying activity peculiar to Aksum where the people rotate the church compound by saying “እግዚኦማህረነክርስቶሰ” (Egzio Mahrene Krstos), meaning may God forgive us.