MESQEL: An Ethiopian Celebration.

On 27 September 2015, Sunday, a number of tourists took part in the Masqel celebration held at the Masqel square. Most of them came from every corner of the world and it was the first time for some of them to take part in this grand event. And some did so twice or trice, even more. According to the information secured from reliable sources, the number of tourists is increasing from time to time especially after Masqel's UNESCO registration as one of world heritages, intangible of course.

candlelight memorial for late Prime Minister Meles Zenawi

The majority of tourists were scrupulously watching each and every movement of the celebration.

This writer approached some of the attending tourists from various countries of the world for comment about the Demera or Mesqal celebration. Silvia from Switzerland was one of the highly impressed tourist by the ever mesmerizing event of the finding of the True Cross. Her confidence was absolutely won by the dance presented on the occasion by priests and Sunday School students. She said, "I am really so happy to be here and excited to get this experience so close. I have no words to say how glad I am to be part of this special day."

 Asked about the source she was informed about this celebration, she said, "Actually I saw it in the internet when I was browsing to know about Ethiopia and planned to tale part in it. When I learned it would take place this weekend, I planned to be here on that specific date."

She said the event is very nice and colourful. Hence, I have no words to express my feelings about it. It is really appealing. Indicating that it is her first time to be here in Ethiopia, Silvia said the celebration is special to start my visit to Ethiopia and well recognized what does Ethiopians culture is. As said by her, she will start travelling around Ethiopia as of Tuesday for three weeks to know many parts of the country.

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Expressing that she had visited different parts of the world, she said hadn't so far experienced areas, out of the countries where she appeared, similar to with what Ethiopia is endowed. "I saw celebrations in different nations; but I have never come across something attention-grabbing compared with Masqel."

"When I read about the significance of the day, I was informed well about the importance of visiting UNESCO site. So that it is even more special to me," said Silvia.

Another tourist and journalist who came from west, Francisco Carnage didn't hesitate to observe every event at the Masqel square. As she is working for Cable News Network (CNN), she has taken important note using laptop. This writer talked to her. She said the celebration is a wonderful as it incorporates a number of events and invites hundreds of thousands of people wearing various traditional clothes. The cloths they wear have helped them get a majestic look. Here, it seems no one is left at home as a cross section of people: the youth, children and even the elderly are attending the ceremony. As a journalist, I know the traditions and the fabrics of Masqal celebration and the Finding of the True Cross has a long history. Though this is my first time to visit Ethiopia, I have found it is very hypnotic, comely and I am looking at the catchy bonfire.

 The other tourist, Moyese came from India with his families. Indicating that he has been touring Ethiopia over the last two weeks with his family especially to Axum, Lalibella, Gondar and the likes, he liked the Masqel celebration very much. Everywhere we saw the old-aged churches and history of this great country. So, we have been extremely impressed and very happy to be part of this festival. It is a great experience for us. "For me, it is the first time to visit Ethiopia and see Masqel festivity. So, my family and I are happier as we have seen Masqel celebration."
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He said that he has not yet been familiar with Masqal festival's UNESCO recorded as a world intangible heritage since the concerned body has not attached due emphasis to its promotion. Most importantly, this and other potential tourist attraction sites have to be well promoted. Here, it is great to see so many people regardless of age, race and gender. I see that religion is given high value. And this is manifested by this grand annual celebration. That is why everyone is coming together, "Moyese said.

In India, he said, there are a lot of festivals and various religions like Hindu, Muslim and the likes. This is also one of the colorful celebration which has its own peculiar characteristics. The very reason of preparing festivals is to get people together and to bring unity among the people. Thus, Masqel celebration is typical example for this.

The other tourist named Scott McNamara came from Australia. The writer found him at Masqal square with his adopted daughter called Elshadaye. He said, I have been very pleased to be here, in Ethiopia, since my coming to great home to Nations, Nationalities and peoples. In the west, it is more hypothetical but this gathering is the practical reflection of being religious and hospitable.

 Because my daughter is an Ethiopian, we have been living here and celebrating Masqel since long time. We toured Ethiopia in different times. Basically, I am very much interested in seeing the Arc of Covenant. And I visited Ethiopia in different times. I have waited here for over 14 months and my wife has lived for over two years. Regarding Maskel festivity, I cannot explain my feeling upon the festival in words. This is the event that always recoiled in your soul, spirit, mind. And I will share what I have acquired from this experience with many people of my land of origin. As my tourist guide told me, Maskel festival is recorded by UNESCO as an world intangible heritage. The nation should further promote all what it does have at hand if it wants bring about a difference in tourism potential exploitation.
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Helen Aron is an Eritrean but she lives in Germany. She said, "My colleagues and I came from the Technical University of Monique for visiting the Grand Renaissance Dams and having a look at Ethiopia. The celebration is really beautiful and all participants were impressed it. And all the ceremonies, singing and traditions here are really impressive. We are really privileged to be here.

"I am committed to visit this celebration again as it is sacred and special one," Helen said.

Meskel, one of the major Ethiopian Orthodox festivals is celebrated for two days beginning September 26th. Legend has it that in the year 326, Queen Helena (Empress Helen) the Mother of Constantine the Great, discovered the cross upon which Christ was crucified. Unable to find the Holy Sepulchre, she prayed for help and was directed by the smoke from a burning fire as to where the cross was buried. After unearthing the Holy Cross, Queen Helena lit torches heralding her success.  In the Middle Ages, the Patriarch of Alexandria gave the Ethiopian Emperor Dawit half of the True Cross in return for protection afforded to the Coptic Christians. A fragment of the True Cross is reputedly held at the Gishen Mariam, about 70 kilometers northwest of Dessie. Ethiopians have been celebrating this day for millennium.

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There are two occasions on Meskel. The first is Demera (September 26), in which bonfires are built topped by a cross to which flowers are tied. The flowers are Meskel Daisies. The Patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church orchestrates the lightening ceremony. After the bonfires are blessed they are lit and dancing and singing begins around them. Priests in full ceremonial dress sing around the bonfire. While the Demera is set on fire there is an inner feeling of brightness for all those who are around it. Little Demera are also built at individual houses or villages. After some time, splinters from the bundles of burning wood collapse. Which directionthey fall is very significant: north, south, east or west Interpretations are soon conjectured as to whether the fields of grain are going to be plentiful or not, or there is peace all year round, etc.  At the closing of the Demera, a rain shower is expected to fall to help put the fire out. If the rain falls and the fire is extinguished, there is a belief that the year will be prosperous.

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The day after the Demera is Meskel. This day is observed with plenty of food and drink as believers go to the spot of the Demera and, using ashes from the fire, mark their heads with the sign of the cross. The festival coincides with the mass blooming of the golden yellow Meskel daisies. The best place to see the Meskel Festival is in the capital Addis Ababa at the famous Meskel Square. But all along the Historic route (Bahir Dar, Gonder, Axum, and Lalibela) and in other major towns, Meskel is colorfully celebrated.

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