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The religious festivals and events of the Ethiopian Coptic church are the most interesting events in the country. The origin of these archaic rites, really unique in the world, lose themselves in the legend told in Kebra Negest (the book of Kings), a sort of legendary saga of Ethiopian history.

According to the myth of Menelik I, the son of the Queen of Sheba and King Solomon, Menelik went to visit his father in Jerusalem, and on his way back to Ethiopia brought the “Ark of the Covenant”, containing the tables of law God had given Moses. Based on this legend the Ark is remained in Ethiopia and after various adventures it is said to be still preserved in Axum. Every Ethiopian church has a replica of the Ark of the Covenant, called “Tabot”. During religious ceremonies these replicas are often brought out, hidden in heavy and colorful brocades and taken in procession. Mostly those ceremonies celebrated for two days.

The major celebrations in Ethiopian Coptic church are:

ENKUTATASH (Gift of Jewels ),Ethiopian new year, September 11th,

GENA, Christmas, January 7th,

TIMKET, Epiphany, January 19th,

FASIKA, Easter, the date changes from year to year,

MESKEL, celebrations of the finding of the True Cross, September 27th,

  • THE ETHIOPIAN NEW YEAR ALSO CALLED ENKUTATASH OR KIDUS YOHANNES is celebrated on Maskaram 1 or September 11. It is primarily secular and a time for people to put on new clothes and if they can, visit friends and relatives.

    Meskal is an ancient national celebration and an important date on the Christian calendar, commemorating the Finding of the True Cross. The eve of Meskel, September 26, has been a national holiday for centuries and is one of the most important of all Ethiopia’s festivals.

    Should you chance to arrive on this day, you will see people of all ages in the streets carrying fresh bunches of daisies, which we call “The Meskel Flower”. Many are dressed in traditional white costumes, and the jubilant atmosphere is instantly infectious.

    By the middle of the afternoon, the celebrations are truly underway. In Addis Ababa’s Main Square, The Meskel Square, a colorful procession of priests, deacons, and choir boys and girls wearing embroidered robes walk around a huge pyre, bearing ceremonial crosses and wooden touches decorated with olive leaves. As the sun begins to set, the torchbearers move forward in unison to set alight the slender, pyramid-shaped structure, topped with a Cross woven from Meskel daisies. The name of the structure is called BONEFIRE or local DAMERA.

    The origins of Meskel are cloaked in the Christian legend. The festival is said to date back to the discovery by the Byzantine Queen Helena of the Cross on which Jesus Christ was crucified, according to the legend, the 20th year of the reign of her son Constantine.

    The most unusual of the country’s festivals are KULUBI GABRIEL the place for Kulubi Gabriel is a place called Kulubi near Harar and Dire Dawa it is celebrated two times in a year first on the 28th of December and second on the 26th of July, SHEIKH HUSSIEN, GISHEN MARIAM and SOF OMAR. The Ethiopia X-MAS celebrated every 07th of January and it is best in Addis Ababa and also Lalibela.


    While excitement over Christmas festivities dies down in the other parts of the world, it marks the beginning for many Ethiopians. The name 'Genna' is used to refer to the nativity because the shepherds to whom the Angel heralded the birth of Christ were playing Genna, traditional Hockey, at the time. The place and time for which many folks travel up to a month and more on foot to get to yes, Lalibela is the place to be at Genna, no matter what your religious persuasion or intellectual orientation


    TIMKAT, the Ethiopian Epiphany is the most celebrated festival. It falls between 18 - 20 January (that means, it will be on the 18th & 19th of January and 19th & 20th January one in four years time during the leap year).

    This is the easiest for visitors to enjoy and witness. The holy TABOT, (The Ark of the covenant) is removed from each church around the country the day before the celebration and taken to a central area where the ceremony will take place.

    The following morning, the church officials, resplendent in their gorgeous regalia, assemble around the "Tabot" and sprinkle holy water over all the Christians present. After this, the "Tabot" will be taken back to the church where it came from carried by the priests and followed by the congregation with much singing and dancing.


    The most solemn of Ethiopia's festivals is EASTER, when the celebrations include the sacred music and dance unique to the church, later accompanied by the most solemn and moving rituals during the midnight Mass. It is locally called FASICA/TNSAIE meaning the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the death.

    These entire celebrations take place everywhere in the country, in every town and village. Besides these more famous celebrations, there are some rituals which are held only in a specific church. The most interesting among these are:

    Hidar Tsion, St. Axum, Tsion Mariam Church(December 1st)

    Gishen, October 1st

    Ura Kidane Mihret, February 23th

    Debre Damo, November 25th

    Hosaina, one week before Easter, Axum.

    The most important Islam events, celebrated in the eastern part of Ethiopia are: Sheikh Hussein and Sof- Omar festivals.

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