Ethiopia has a number of festivals throughout the year starting with spring (Tsedey), the time of Ethiopian New Year, which falls on September 11 or (Meskerem 1). Some of them are listed below:
Ashandye /Ashenda, one of the great festivals which are unique for Lasta lalibela and further North like Sekota and Tigray, which takes place in August to mark the ending of fasting called filseta.(The time of the annunciation of saint virgin marry). It is an event most yearned by girls. Young girls dressed in beautiful traditional outfits and in small groups, go from house to house singing and dancing. 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 as a decoration
This festivity is celebrated on Sunday that comes following meskel. Irecha means, according to Oromo’s, Thanks giving day to their “Waqa “or God. At national level, it is celebrated in Bishoftu town in Oromyia region in Lake Hora Arsedi. On the festival Community leaders and Aba Gadas address thanks to WAQA for the blessed transition from the rainy season which is normally considered as dark to the bright and colorful season autumn (Birra). On the day different cultural dressings give a very majestic to the environment and hence worth visiting.
Ethiopian Christmas (Genna)
The Ethiopian Christmas also called Lidet, is one of the primary religious and secular festivals . Falling on the 7th of January, it is celebrated seriously by a church service that goes on throughout the night with people moving from one church to another. Traditionally young men play a game that is similar to hockey, called Genna .Christmas has also come to be known by that name. The celebration is unique to Lalibela and attracts many visitors world wide.
Timket (Ethiopian Epiphany)
This is Ethiopia’s most celebrated festival. It falls on 19th January and is easier for visitors to witness and enjoy. The Holy Tabot, the replica of the Ark of the Covenant, is removed from each Orthodox Church around the country the day before the celebration and taken to central area where the ceremony will take place. The following morning, the church officials assemble around the Tabot and sprinkle holy water over all the faithful present and receive the renewals of their vows. After this is done, the congregation follows the bishop, elders and clergy’s as the Tabot is carried back to the church from where it came. There are so much traditional dances by various groups who are accompanying the Holy Tabot.
This is the most solemn Ethiopian festival. Fasting becomes more intense over the 56-day period of Lent, when no meat or animal products of any kind, including milk and butter, are eaten. Good Friday starts off by church going, and is a day of preparation for the breaking of this long fasting period.
The faithful prostrate themselves in church, bowing down and rising up until they get tired. The main religious service takes place with the Paschal Vigil on Saturday night. It is a somber, sacred occasion with hymn and religious dancing until the early hours of the morning. At 3:00 a.m. everyone returns home to break their fast, and a chicken is slaughtered at midnight for the symbolic occasion. In the morning, after a rest, a sheep is slaughtered to start the feasting on Easter Sunday.
This is celebrated as Islamic New Year according to Islamic traditions. Especially the 10th of Muharam, which is known as Asura, is colorfully celebrated in Negash and Harrar.
Islamic festivals have a special meaning for Muslims of Ethiopia because of the historical link. Ramadan is one of the holiest periods in the Islamic calendar. Life changes dramatically during Ramadan. After breaking their fast at sun-down, people stay awake until early hours feasting, visiting friends, and praying. At dawn they eat the meal that will last them until sun set. At the end of Romadan, the festival of Id-Ul -Fitir is celebrated. Other Islamic festivals are:Milad-an –Nabi(birth day of Prophet Mohamed) and Eid Ul-Adha(end of Hajji, the pilgrimage to Makkah)
Lost in the desert planes of Ethiopia’s Bale Zone lays the sacred shrine of Sheik Hussen. It is glistering white domes float in a vast sea or emerald green scrub.This remote shrine and its sacred compound house the tomb of a saint renowned for his miraculous powers. Although little is known of Sheik Hussen’s history,his shrine has become the site of one of Ethiopia’s most extra ordinary pilgrimages. The faithful flock there twice a year from all over Ethiopia as well as from neighboring countries to visit this complex of shrines and tombs. The pilgrimage lasts several days. As the final prayers are offered and preparations are made for the long journey home, the pilgrims spiritually enriched. Their journey has brought renewal and a welcome break from the harsh realities of their lives.
Other special futures of Ethiopia
Ethiopian coffee ceremony
It is one of the most enjoyable events you can attend at the Ethiopian restaurant. The coffee is taken through its full life cycle of preparation in front of you in a ceremonial manner. Coffee is called ‘Bunna’ (boo-na) by the Ethiopians.
The ceremony starts with washing the coffee beans and roasting it in a coffee roasting pan on a small open fire/coal furnace. The pan is similar to an old fashioned popcorn roasting pan and it has a very long handle to keep the hand away from the heat. At this time most of your senses are being involved in the ceremony. The woman shake the roasting pan back and forth that the beans won’t burn ( this sounds like shaking coins in a thin can), the coffee beans start to pop ( sounds like popcorn) and the most memorable part is when the lady preparing the coffee takes the roasted coffee among the audience that the freshly smell of it fills the air.
The roasted coffee is then put in a small household tool called ‘Mukecha’ (Moo-ke-ch-a) for the grinding. ‘Mukecha’ is a heavy wooden bowl where the coffee beans are put and another tool called ‘Zenezena’, which is a wooden/ metal stick, used to crush the beans in a rhythmic up and down manner. Most restaurants this days use modern coffee grinders.
The crushed coffee powder is then put in a traditional pot locally called Jebena’ (J-be-na) wich is made of clay. Then, it will be made to boil on the small open fire/coal furnace. Again the boiling coffee aroma fills the room. Once the coffee is boiled, it is served in small cup called ‘cini’ (si-ni) which are very small Chinese cups.
As you sip your first cup of coffee, you’ve gone through the full process of seeing the coffee beans being washed, roasted, ground, boiled and now the culmination is your drinking of it.
Traditionally, Ethiopians stick around to get at least a second serving of coffee and sometimes a third.
Each serving has a name. The first serving is called ‘Abol’, second serving is ‘Tona’ or ‘huletega’ and third serving is called ‘Bereka’ or ‘sosetega. The coffee is not grinded for the second and third serving, a portion of coffee powder is left on purpose for these two ceremonies.