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Meskel September 27

Meskel September 27

Meskel (Finding of the True Cross), is the celebration of the finding of remnants of the actual cross on which Jesus was crucified.  The word “meskel” means “cross” in Amharic.  According to Christian tradition, St. Eleni (Empress Helena) discovered the hiding place of three crosses used at the crucifixion of Jesus.  In her dream, Eleni was told she should make a bonfire; the direction of the smoke would tell her the exact location of the True Cross on which Jesus was crucified.  She followed the directions from her dream, and the smoke landed exactly where the cross was buried.

Meskel celebrations began the night before with large bonfires topped with a cross and decorated with meskel flowers.  The bonfire preparations are blessed and burned while revelers sing and dance around the fire, locally called demera.  It is believed that the direction of the smoke will predict the future for the year to come.  After the demera has burnt out, the faithful mark crosses on their foreheads with the ash.

The biggest Meskel celebration is in Addis Ababa, held in the centrally-located Meskel Square.  Gondar, Axum and Lalibela are also good locations to celebrate this festival.  Probably the most exuberant celebrations take place in the region of the Gurage people, southwest from Addis.

ADDIS ABABA, ETHIOPIA - SEPTEMBER 26 : Ethiopian Christians gather around a huge fire during the Meskel Festival, commemorating the discovery of the True Cross by the Roman Empress Helena (Saint Helena) in the fourth century, at Meskel Square in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on September 26, 2017. Thousands of Christian Orthodoxes gathered with their traditional white clothes. (Photo by Minasse Wondimu Hailu/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

A member of the Ethiopian church swings his child over flames for a blessing as they celebrate 'Meskel', the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, at the Ethiopian monastery on the roof of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem's Old City on September 27, 2015. Meskel, Ge'ez word for cross, is an annual celebration that commemorates the finding of the 'True Cross' by the Queen Helena mother of Constantine the Great in the fourth century. AFP PHOTO / GALI TIBBON        (Photo credit should read GALI TIBBON/AFP/Getty Images)

A member of the Ethiopian church swings his child over flames for a blessing as they celebrate ‘Meskel’, the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, at the Ethiopian monastery on the roof of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem’s Old City on September 27, 2015. Meskel, Ge’ez word for cross, is an annual celebration that commemorates the finding of the ‘True Cross’ by the Queen Helena mother of Constantine the Great in the fourth century. AFP PHOTO / GALI TIBBON (Photo credit should read GALI TIBBON/AFP/Getty Images)

TO GO WITH AFP STORY BY AARON MAASHO -- Ethiopian priests light a bonfire 27 September 2007 in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa during celebrations of the nation's third millennium. More than 100,000 Ethiopian Orthodox Christians took part in a procession for the first major religious festival of the country's third millennium, at Addis Ababa's Meskel square. The festival celebrated the finding of the 'true cross' by St. Helena in Jerusalem in the 4th century AD, upon which it is believed Christ was crucified. AFP PHOTO/PETER DELARUE (Photo credit should read PETER DELARUE/AFP/Getty Images)

TO GO WITH AFP STORY BY AARON MAASHO — Ethiopian priests light a bonfire 27 September 2007 in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa during celebrations of the nation’s third millennium. More than 100,000 Ethiopian Orthodox Christians took part in a procession for the first major religious festival of the country’s third millennium, at Addis Ababa’s Meskel square. The festival celebrated the finding of the ‘true cross’ by St. Helena in Jerusalem in the 4th century AD, upon which it is believed Christ was crucified. AFP PHOTO/PETER DELARUE (Photo credit should read PETER DELARUE/AFP/Getty Images)

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