Ethiopians Celebrate Annual ‘Demera’ Bonfire
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia – Tens of thousands of Ethiopians converged on downtown Addis Ababa on Friday to celebrate Demera, the annual bonfire lighting ceremony on the eve of the anniversary of Meskel the finding of the true cross by St Helena in the fourth century AD.
Resident diplomats, clerics, expats and government officials joined the celebration in Meskel Square, where tens of thousands gathered around the huge Demera, which is lit at sunset.
For over 1,600 years, the festival of Meskel – which means “cross” in Amharic – has been celebrated in the Horn of Africa country.
The celebration commemorates the alleged discovery of the cross upon which Jesus was crucified by Empress Helena, mother of Roman ruler Constantine the Great.
The original event is said to have taken place on March 19, 326 AD, but the feast is now celebrated each year on September 27.
Speaking on the occasion, Ethiopian Orthodox Church Patriarch Abune Mathias noted that the annual celebration had been recognized last year by UNESCO.
“The Ethiopian Orthodox Church will be exerting maximum efforts to get the numerous other tangible and intangible heritage in the country registered by UNESCO,” he said.
The patriarch called on all pertinent bodies in Ethiopia to promote their religious and cultural heritage to the world so it might receive World Heritage classification.
He also called for unity, harmony, love and cooperation among the people of Ethiopia.
Deputy Mayor of Addis Ababa Sitotaw Abebaw, for his part, said Ethiopia had maintained its proud history of peaceful co-existence with numerous nationalities, religions and cultures.
“Religious fathers hold the responsibility of passing this onto posterity,” he said.
This year’s bonfire festival succeeded in drawing several foreign tourists.
Styn van der Leest, a Dutch national, told Anadolu Agency that he found the celebration exciting.
“I have never seen anything like this before,” he said. “The bonfire was huge. In Holland, we do not celebrate holidays on this scale.”
Wasim Bahja, who described himself as a “resident from the homeland of Jesus Christ” (the Palestinian territories) said: “I feel so lucky to attend this wonderful ceremony in Addis Ababa. I enjoyed it.”
“It is amazing how people of different backgrounds gather in joyous moods together and celebrate a holiday,” he said.
By Addis Getachew – firstname.lastname@example.org – www.aa.com.tr/en – Addis Ababa