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Ashenda Festival in Ethiopia

Ashenda is Amhara and Tigray peoples traditional festival which takes place in August 22. The name of the festival “Ashenda” comes from the name of a “tall grass” that the girls make in to a skirt and wear it around their waist during the holiday.

Every year Ethiopian young girls eagerly awaits for the great day that dawns ‘Ashenda’-a colorful festival. They wear traditional close called tilf which is a cotton dress decorated with amazing embroidery. The girls also adorned themselves with array of beautiful jewelry and have different hairstyles based on their ages.

After they gather in the village or city center they divide in to small groups and they go house to house singing and playing with their drums. They stop at ever house and sing and dance for the people in the houses. It is customary for people to give them money, food, drinks and other items for their efforts. They continue the whole day going from house to house and occasionally stopping in a village or city center and singing and dancing for a while before they go on again on their tour.

The girls euphoric on this day because it is the day they are allowed a green light to go out to the street singing and dancing with friends and peers for a week. They chant songs and show their groovy styles to their hearts content attired with eye catching costumes. This as well is not their ultimate goal. Rather they dream beyond the game, which facilitates good interactions with their peers. As they go out at their best they lure the opposite sex, with peeled eyes who are alert to choose their best. In most cases the girls win suitors.

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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”.

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Happy Ethiopian New Year 2011 E.C – Enkutatash

Visit Ethiopia and be  7 years younger!

Ethiopia has its own calendar with 13 months, and each of the 12 months has 30 days, and the13th month called Pagumen has 5 or 6 days in leap year. The new year occur on 11th September according to the Gregorian calendar, which is 1st Meskerem on the Ethiopian calendar. The Ethiopian calendar is 7 years and 8 months behind the Gregorian calendar.

As it comes with change of the season, the New Year in Ethiopia is celebrated with new hope, and the people are making special preparations.

Ethiopian New Year comes at the time when the heavy rainfall starts to cease, and the bright sun comes to shine over the green land, which is also covered by the golden flower known in Amharic language as “Adey Abeba“.    

Enkutatash means the ”gift of jewels”. The story goes back almost 3,000 years, When the famous Queen of Sheba returned from her expensive jaunt to visit king Solomon in Jerusalem, her chiefs welcomed her by replenishing her treasury with Inku or jewels. The spring festival has been celebrated since these early times and, as the rains come to their abrupt end, dancing and singing can be heard in every village in the green countryside.

The date traditionally marks the end of the season of heavy rains and also marks the return of the Queen of Sheba to Ethiopia after her visit to king Selomon in Jerusalem. Enkutatash is an important festival for the Ethiopians as it also symbolizes the advent of good harvest weather.

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