Ethiopia Celebrates Meskel, A Christian Holiday All Its Own, With Yellow Flowers And Blazing Bonfires

Estifanos Church
Estifanos Church

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia -A massive bonfire blazed in the central square of Ethiopia’s capital city, Addis Ababa, on Thursday night. But by Friday morning, the mess had been swept away, leaving nothing but a giant spot of soot on the asphalt.

Thousands of people had flocked to the arena, called Meskel Square, to watch the ceremonial lighting of the fire for the eve of Meskel, a national holiday also known as the Finding of the True Cross. Ethiopians from across the country — and visitors from around the world — carried yellow daises, wooden crosses and wax candles as the pile of wood burned down to the pavement. Smaller bonfires were lit after sunset throughout the city, in backyards and on street corners, and celebrations continued throughout the night.

On Friday morning, the square was still buzzing; Orthodox Christians, many with soot on their foreheads in the shape of a cross, congregated at Meskel Square or paid a visit to the nearby Estifanos Church. After the spectacle of Meskel eve, the holiday itself is a time for rest, family togetherness and feasting — though Sept. 27 fell on a Friday this year, a fasting day, which means that Orthodox Christians will have to abstain from meat. Read more