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MESKEL - TRUE CROSS DISCOVERY

 

Meskel has been celebrated in the country for over 1600 years. The word actually means "cross" and the feast commemorates the discovery of the cross upon which Jesus was crucified. This cross was discovered by Empress Helena, the mother of Constantine the Great.

The original event took place on March 19th, 329 AD. The feast is now celebrated on September 27th.

Many of the rites observed throughout the festival are said to be directly connected to the legend of Empress Helena. On the eve of Meskel, tall branches are tied together and yellow daisies, popularly called Meskel flowers, are placed at the top. During the night, those branches are gathered together in front of the compound gates and ignited. This symbolizes the actions of the Empress who, when no one would show the Holy Sepulcher, lit incense and prayed for help. Where the smoke drifted, she dug and found three crosses. To one of the three, on the True Cross of Jesus, many miracles were attributed.

During this time of the year, flowers gloom on mountains and plains and the meadows are yellow with the brilliant Meskel daisy. Dancing, feasting, merrymaking, bonfires and even gun salutes mark the occasion. The festival begins by planting a green tree on Meskel eve in town squares and village market places. Everyone brings a pole topped with Meskel daisies to from 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 "Demera".

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