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Enkutatash means “the gift of jewels". When the famous Queen of Sheba returned from her expensive jaunt to visit King Solomon in Jerusalem, her chiefs welcomed her by replenishing her treasury with inku or jewels. The spring festival has been celebrated since this early time and as the rains come to their abrupt end, dancing and singing can be heard at every village in the green countryside.

Enkutatash is the first day of the new year in Ethiopian calendar and it is celebrated on September 11th, and 12th every leap year.


In the Middle Ages, the patriarch of Alexandria gave the Ethiopian Emperor Dawit half of the True Cross in return for the protection afforded to the Coptic Christians. Meskal also signifies the physical presence of part of the True Cross at the church of Egziabher Ab, the remote mountain monastery of Gishen Mariam located 483 kms north of Addis Ababa in Wello administrative zone. In this monastery, there is a massive volume called the Tefut written during the reign of Zera Yacob (1434 - 1468), which records the story of how a fragment of the cross was acquired.

During this time of the year flowers gloom on mountain and plain and the meadows are yellow with the brilliant Meskal daisy. Dancing, feasting, merrymaking, bonfires and even gun salutes mark the occasion. The festival begins by planting a green tree on Meskal eve in town squares and village market places. On ………. Everyone brings a pole topped with Meskal daisies to form the towering pyramid that will be a beacon of flame. Torches of tree branches tied up together called "Chibo" are used to light the bundle called bon fire "Demera". In Addis Ababa, the celebrations take place in Meskel Square, to the south east of the city center.

Christmas, called Lidet, The word lidet means “to be born”, falling on 7 January, it is celebrated seriously by a church service that goes on throughout the night, with people moving from one church to another. Traditionally, young men played a game similar to hockey, called genna, on this day, and now Christmas has also come to be known by that name.

Timket (the Epiphany)

Ethiopia 's most celebrated festival is Timket the Epiphany, which falls on 19th January and is the easiest for visitors to witness and enjoy.

Timket is an extremely colourful three days festival commemorating the baptism of Christ. The dramatic and colourful procession of Timket starts on the eve at which priests take the Tabot - which symbolizes the Ark of the covenant- containing the Ten Commandments from each church. Concealed by an ornamental cloth, it is taken to a tent, close to a consecrated pool or stream, accompanied by much ringing of bells, blowing of trumpets and the burning of incense. The following morning the great day itself, the church officials, resplendent in their gorgeous regalia, assemble around the Tabot and sprinkle and receive the renewals of their vows. If the body of water is large enough, some people will immerse themselves. After this is done, the congregation follows the bishops, elders and clergy as the Tabot is carried back to the church from whence it came accompanied by much singing and dancing. The third day is devoted to the feast of St. Michael, the archangel, one of Ethiopia’s most popular saints.

Kulubi (Feast of Saint Gabriel)

The feast of Saint Gabriel (kulubi Gebriel), the Archangel, is celebrated on December 19 Ethiopian calendar (December 28 Gregorian calendar) which culminates in a pilgrimage to Kulubi, about 68 kilometres from Dire Dawa. Orthodox Tewahedo Christians mark the celebration with colorful processions and ceremonies. Pilgrims walk up the hill 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.


Fasika (Easter) ) Fasika (Easter) is celebrated after 55 days severe Lent fasting (Hudade or Abye Tsome). Orthodox Tewahedo Christians do not eat meat and dairy products for the whole 55 days. Vegetarian meals such as lentils, ground split peas, grains, fruit and varieties of vegetable stew accompanied by injera and/or bread are only eaten on these days. The first meal of the day is taken after 3 PM (9 o'clock in the afternoon Ethiopian time) during the fasting days, except Saturdays and Sundays, where a meal is allowed after the morning service.

On Easter eve people go to church and celebrate with candles which are lit during a colorful Easter mass service which begins at about 6 PM (12 o'clock in the evening Ethiopian time) and ends at about 2 AM (8 o'clock after mid-night Ethiopian time). Everyone goes home to break the fast with the meat of chicken or lamb, slaughtered the previous night after 6 PM, accompanied with injera and traditional drinks (i.e. tella or tej). 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).

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