Meskel /Demera/ – Ethiopian Religious Festival
Meskel is one of the major orthodox Christians religious festivals and falls on September 26/27 G.C every year. This festival registered by UNESCO as intangible cultural heritage of humanity.
Queen Helena, the mother of Constantine the Great, went to Jerusalem from Constantionple in 325 AD to helping poor Christians. While in Jerusalem, Helena had a dream in which she was told to light a bonfire and the smoke would indicate where the true cross was hidden.
Meskel celebrations include burning of Demera (a mammoth bonfire) to signify the fire that was lit by Queen Helena. It is often said that God spoke to the queen in a dream and asked her to make a large fire and use the direction of its smoke to find the location of the Christ’s Cross. So, the queen ordered her followers to gather all the firewood they could get to make a giant pile. She then added frankincense to the pile and lit it. A huge cloud of smoke went up high in the sky and fell back to the ground, right at the location of the cross.
Ethiopian Orthodox Christians commemorates the discovery of the true cross. According to local traditions, this Demera- procession takes place in the early evening the day before Meskel or on the day itself. The Demera (firewood) will be burned after being blessed. Charcoal from the remains of the fire is afterwards collected and used by the faithful to mark their foreheads with the shape of a cross with some believing that it “marks the ultimate act in the cancellation of sins”.