Discover Meskerem: Ethiopia’s Festival Season

19 Oct 2017

Meskerem, the first of the thirteen months which comprise the Ethiopian calendar, is quickly gaining traction as an idyllic time to visit the Land of Origins.

Meskerem falls between September 11th and October 10th (Gregorian Calendar), and represents the start of the new year in Ethiopia, symbolising an exciting time of change, thanksgiving and renewal, with the celebration of a series of cultural and religious festivals throughout the month, Meskerem is attracting a growing number of tourists.

The month kicks off with new year’s celebrations, known as Enqutatash, which dates back 3,000 years. Ancient lore points to the story of the Queen of Sheba and King Solomon as the origins of these unique celebrations. Roughly translated as “a gift of jewels”, the term references the reception the Queen received from her subjects following her fabled trip to Jerusalem – they regaled her with jewels to commemorate her journey to and return from the court of King Solomon. Today, these traditions continue with children receiving gifts of money or loaves from their elders and families coming together to celebrate the end of one year and the beginning of the next.

The festivities are captured by an excerpt from the poem ‘Enkutatash’ by Misrak Terefe:

“… enkutatash – for you – to bloom we bake the bread.
We spread the grass as carpets, flat, we burn the incense, add the plates, the blessed, to celebrate – to celebrate the change.
Enkutatash, if you come – then change, then change us too…”

Misrak Terefe, translated from Amharic by Rike Scheffler

New year represents a time of renewal, as the rainy season subsides leaving behind lush fields blooming with yellow flowers known as the Adey Abeba (Bidens macroptera) which adorn the homes of many Ethiopians throughout Meskerem, and symbolise the spirit of peace, hope and love which arrives with a new year. Complementary themes of peace, reconciliation and thanksgiving are also the foundations of the celebrations of the Meskel and Irreecha festivals held later in the month.

Meskel, a UNESCO-inscribed intangible cultural heritage, is celebrated by Ethiopian Orthodox Christians on Meskerem 17 and commemorates the unearthing of the True Holy Cross of Christ. It is the most prominent of these nationwide festivities and is celebrated in the historic Meskel Square in Addis Ababa, where tens of thousands gather to watch the Orthodox processions and the burning of a gigantic demera bonfire.

Meskel in Addis Ababa

During Meskel, believers are urged to resolve the quarrels and disagreements of the past by promoting peace and reconciliation within their communities and renewing their social bonds to one another.

Similarly, the week-long Irreecha cultural festival celebrated by the Oromo people at the end of the month, commemorates the beginning of Spring as a time of reconciliation, unity and thanksgiving. The festival culminates with thanksgiving celebrations at Lake Hora Arsadii, outside Bishoftu city in the Oromia Regional State. Irreecha celebrations attract tens of thousands and are officiated by elders from across the region who bless participants and promote the culture’s ethics of respect, peace and reconciliation. Closely associated with the UNESCO-inscribed Gadaa system, a traditional system of governance practiced by the Oromo, the festival connects participants to the past, through the upholding of their ancestral traditions, and to the future, through their prayers and hopes for an abundant spring harvest.

Irreecha Festival

Contrary to last year, this year Irreecha was peacefully celebrated on the banks of Lake Hora Arsadii by people from across the region. Led by community elders, the festivities passed without incident and saw participants express their gratitude for the blessings of the previous year while renewing their hopes for peace, unity and abundance going forward.

Meskerem has always represented an excellent time to visit Ethiopia and surely stands alone as the perfect time to discover all that the Land of Origins has to offer.

 

 

Latest News

Browse all
Make the most of lockdown and dedicate some of that extra time to learning something new…
2 Jun 2020
#STAYATHOME: THINGS TO DO
Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt are to resume technical discussions on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), currently under construction on the Nile river, after Egypt accepted an Ethiopia-Sudan proposal to resume negotiations.
1 Jun 2020
The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam: Cooperation and Contentment
Embassies in London and Washington D.C jointly facilitate the mobilisation and transfer of lifesaving medical equipment, worth over £40,000, donated by the Ethio-American Doctors Group (EADG). The medical equipment will be used to bolster the Coronavirus response in Ethiopia.
1 Jun 2020
Embassy receives over £40,000 worth of lifesaving medical equipment for Ethiopia
Embassy appeal sees significant resources raised, in just seven weeks, by Ethiopians and Friends of Ethiopia in the United Kingdom, but support is still needed to defend Ethiopia against the Coronavirus pandemic. With the rate of infection rising, the Embassy is now making a fresh call for donations.
27 May 2020
Over £60,000 raised in seven weeks to combat Coronavirus in Ethiopia
Following Prime Minister Abiy’s announcement of plans to liberalise the economy and allow foreign and private investors into key state-owned companies, the Ethiopian Communications Authority (ECA) is proceeding with plans to privatise the telecoms sector, after delays caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
25 May 2020
Ethiopia to issue two telecom licences
H.E. Lia Tadesse, Minister of Health, delivered her maiden speech at the 73rd World Health Assembly, which was held virtually for the first time due to the coronavirus pandemic. Briefing the Assembly on Ethiopia’s COVID-19 containment efforts, the Minister said that the Government took decisive measures to contain the spread of the disease.
21 May 2020
World leaders call for unity to combat COVID-19 at the first-ever virtual World Health Assembly
On 10th May, Ambassador Fesseha and his family departed the United Kingdom following the relinquishment of his appointment as Ethiopian Ambassador to the United Kingdom. Ambassador Fesseha assumed his duties in the UK in March 2019, bringing with him almost 30 years of experience.
15 May 2020
Ambassador Fesseha concludes his tour of duty
As we go to press (1st May), 18,754 laboratory tests have been conducted and the total number of cases has risen to 133, 66 of whom have recovered, and three have died. Since the beginning of the crisis, Ethiopia has focused its strategy on the need for proactive interventions to curb the potential spread of the virus.
1 May 2020
Coronavirus: Ethiopia Situation Update
Now that you have gone through all your favourite shows, make the most of lockdown and dedicate some of that extra time to learning something new…from cooking to virtual tours and new books, we have you covered ...and we have put an Ethiopian twist on it!
30 Apr 2020
#STAYATHOME: THINGS TO DO
Ethiopia is to plant 5 billion tree seedlings this year to help fight climate change and deforestation. The announcement was made following Prime Minister Abiy’s visit to a tree seedling nursery in Sodere. The 5 billion seedlings are being nurtured in 38,000 sites across the country as part of the annual planting season, which will start in mid-June this year,…
25 Apr 2020
Ethiopia to plant 5 billion tree seedlings