During the first millennium B.C. and possibly even
earlier, various Semitic-speaking groups from Southwest Arabia began to
cross the Red Sea and settle along the coast and in the nearby
highlands. These migrants brought with them their Semitic speech
(Sabaean and perhaps others) and script (Old Epigraphic South Arabic)
and monumental stone architecture. A fusion of the newcomers with the
indigenous inhabitants produced a culture known as pre-Aksumite. The
factors that motivated this settlement in the area are not known, but to
judge from subsequent history, commercial activity must have figured
strongly. The port city of Adulis, near modern-day Mitsiwa, was a major
regional entrepôt and probably the main gateway to the interior for new
arrivals from Southwest Arabia. Archaeological evidence indicates that
by the beginning of the Christian era this pre-Aksumite culture had
developed western and eastern regional variants. The former, which
included the region of Aksum, was probably the polity or series of
polities that became the Aksumite state.
This is an
extremely colourful three-day festival commemorating the baptism of
Christ.The night before, priests take the Tabot (which symbolizes the
Ark of the Covenant) containing the Ten Commandments from each Church.
Concealed by an ornamental cloth, it is taken to a tent, close to a
consecrated pool or stream, accompanied by much ringing of bells,
blowing of trumpets and the burning of incense. In Addis Ababa many
tents are pitched at Jan Meda, to the northeast of the city centre. At
0200 there is a Mass, and crowds attend, with picnics lit by oil lamps.
At dawn the priest extinguishes a candle burning on a pole set in a
nearby river using a ceremonial cross. Some of the congregation leap
into the river. The Tabots are then taken back to the Churches in
procession, accompanied by horsemen, while the festivities continue.
Buhe-21 August Bands of
small boys call at each house, singing and jostling until they are given
some fresh dough (buhe), that is being prepared for baking. In the
evening, bonfires are lit outside each home.
Enkutatash -New Year, 11
This festival celebrates both the New Year and the Feast of John the
Baptist at the end of thelong rains in
Spring, when the Highlands become covered in wild flowers. Children
dressed in new clothes dance through the villages, distributing garlands
and tiny paintings. In the evening every house lights a bonfire and
there is singing and dancing.
Maskal- Finding of the
True Cross, 27 September
Legend has it
that the cross upon which Christ was crucified was discovered in the
year 326 by Empress Helen, Mother of Constantine the Great. Unable to
find the Holy Sepulchre, she prayed for help and was directed by the
smoke of an incense burner to where the cross was buried.
In the Middle Ages, the Patriarch of Alexandria gave the Ethiopian
Emperor Dawit half of the True Cross in retum for the protection
afforded to the Coptic Christians A fragment of the T rue Cross is
reputed to be held at the Gishen Marien monastery which is about 70
kilometres to the northwest of Dessie.
On the day of the festival, bright yellow Maskal daisies are tied to
fronds, and piled high in town squares. Colourful processions carrying
buming torches converge on to the square, where a pyre is lit and the
celebrations continue until dawn. In Addis Ababa, the celebrations take
place in Maskal Square, to the southeast of the City centre.
St Gabriel is
the Patron Saint who guards over homes and churches. There is a huge
pilgrimage to St Gabriel's Church on Kulubi hill, which is on the route
from Addis Ababa eastwards, about 70 kilometres before Dire Dawa. Many
pilgrims carry heavy burdens as penance, children are brought to be
baptized, and offerings are made to be distributed to the poor.
New Years Day
(Julian Calendar) 1January
Ethiopian Christmas: birth of Christ) 7 January
Ethiopian Epiphany: baptism of Christ) 19 January
(commemorates the victory by Menelik II over Italy in 1896) 2 March
(celebrates end of Italian occupation in 1941) 6 April
International Labour Day
Ethiopian Good Friday
(Ethiopian Easter Sunday) May (variable)
Idd al Fitr
(end of month of fasting for Ramadan) May (variable)