Finding true cross (Meskel)

Meskal 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, by the Empress Helena, the mother of Constantine the Great. The original event took place on 19 March 326 AD. but the feast is now celebrated on 27 September.

Many of the rites observed throughout the festival are said to be directly connected to the legend of Empress Helena. On the eve of Meskal, tall branches are tied together and yellow daisies, popularly called Meskal 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 croses. To one of the three, on the True Cross of Jesus, many miracles were attributed

Meskal also signifies the physical presence of part of the True Cross at the church of Egziabher Ab, the remote mountain monastery of Gishen Mariam located 483 kms north of Addis Ababa. In this monastery, there is a massive volume called the Tefut written during the reign of Zera Yacob (1434 - 1468), which records the story of how a fragment of the cross was acquired.

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

Ethiopian Chrismas(Gena)

Christmas, called Lidet, is not the primary religious and secular festival that it has become in Western countries. Falling on 7 January every Years it is celebrated seriously by a church service that goes on throughout the night, with people moving from one church to another. Traditionally, young men played a game similar to hockey, called Genna, on this day, and now Christmas has also come to be known by that name.

Nature

Ethiopia is well endowed with a wide variety of experiences in natural spheres to explore. The country boasts some of the world’s most breathtaking scenery,and features an extraordinary variety of wildlife species, as well as a spectacular variety of plants.

Ethiopia is truly a tourist paradise- beautiful, secretive, mysterious and extraordinary. With diverse landscape, fauna & flora, and welcoming people, it offers nature tourism. Ethiopia enjoys an amazing scenic beauty. It is rich in mountains, rivers, lakes, wildlife, plants, birds, water falls including the famous Blue Nile Falls, and many more. The country has nine national parks and 36 game reserve areas. For instance, the Semien and Bale mountains are the most spectacular and magnificent adventure sites.

Ethiopia is a land of rugged mountains (some are over 4000 meters high) broad savannah, lakes and rivers. The unique Rift Valley is a remarkable region of volcanic lakes, with their famous collections of bird life great escarpments and stunning vistas. Tisissat, the Blue Nile falls, must rank as one of the greatest natural spectacles in Africa today. With 14 major wildlife reserves, Ethiopia provides a microcosm of the entire sub-Saharan eco-system. Birdlife abounds and indigenous animals from the rare Walia Ibex to the shy wild ass roam free just as nature intended. Ethiopia, after the rains, is a land decked with flowers and with many more native plants than most countries in Africa. Among the many natural tourist attractions, only the principal ones are briefly given below.

Epiphany (Timket)

Ethiopia still retains the Julian calendar, in which the year is divided into 12 months of 30 days each and a 13th month of 5 days and 6 days in leap year. The Ethiopian calendar is 8 years behind the Gregorian calendar from January to September and 7 years behind between September 11 and January 8.

Enkutatash means the "gift of jewels". When the famous Queen of Sheba returned from her expensive jaunt to visit King Solomon in Jerusalem, her chiefs welcomed her bolts by replenishing her treasury with inku or jewels. The spring festival has been celebrated since this early times and as the rains come to their abrupt end, dancing and singing can be heard at every village in the countryside

Culture

Ethiopia, an old country beyond all imaginations, has culture and traditions dating back over 3000 years. With over 80 different Ethnic groups with their own language, culture and traditions. The strong religious setting, celebrations and festivals play an important part in every ones daily life. Church ceremonies are a major feature of Ethiopian life.

The events are impressive and unique. The Ethiopian Orthodox Church has its own head, follows its own customs, and is extremely proud of its fourth century origins.

The Lower Omo is home to a remarkable mix of small, contrasting ethnic groups not only the Bume and Konso, but also the Gelebe, the Bodi, the Mursi, the Surma, the Arbore, and the Hamer, to name but a few. Lifestyles are as varied as the tribes themselves. Lacking any material, culture and artifacts common to other cultures, these tribes find unique ways in which to express their artistic impulses. Both the Surma and the Karo, for example, are experts at body painting, using clays and locally available vegetable pigments to trace fantastic patterns on each other's faces, chests, arms, and legs. These designs are created purely for fun and aesthetic effect, each artist vying to outdo his fellows.

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