Ethiopians celebrate Meskel festival

Ethiopians have celebrated the annual festival of the Meskel (which means “cross” in Amharic), marking the finding of the “true cross” on which Jesus Christ was supposedly crucified.

The festival is one of the major religious celebrations of the Orthodox Church in the Horn of Africa country. The main national feast – which occurs on 27 or 28 September – is held at Meskel Square in the capital Addis Abba.

On 27 September, senior government officials, diplomats and Orthodox Church leaders joined for the celebrations of the Damera – the lighting of the bonfires which signify the smoke that led to St Helena, the mother of Constantine the Great, to the spot where the cross was buried.

As he set ablaze the bonfire, Abune Mathias, the Patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church said the Meskel (true cross) united people through forgiveness and love. Many Ethiopians believe the bonfire cleanses sins, while others think the direction of the smoke and the way the bonfire collapses can be used to predict the future.