Meskel is one of the most inclusive outdoor religious and cultural celebrations registered at UNESCO as intangible cultural human heritage. It is celebrated among the Nations, Nationalities and Peoples of Ethiopia on the 27th of September in Ethiopia with a mosaic of cultural paraphernalia as practice among the peoples of Ethiopia.
The significance of Meskel surpasses beyond its cultural and religious values. Meskel heralds the end of the rainy season and the onset of the Ethiopian spring.
Even non Christians enjoy Meskel mainly because the occasion coincides with the end of the main rainy season (June to September) and the onset of Ethiopian spring in which fields and meadows in the country are carpeted with mesmerizing endemic daisies with their captivating yellow colors locally known as Adey Abeba which majestically envelop the Ethiopian fields. The daisyies prevail for only two months and disappear over the next ten months to reappear at the same period the next year.
During Meskel festival, a special species of birds known as 'yemeskel wof' also appears. Generally, the word 'Meskel wof (Meskel's bird) is used to call the four bird species, namely, the Northern Red Bishops, indigo-birds, whydah and widow birds, and yet it has more than ten species under it.
These birds are also enjoyed by bird watchers during Meskel. When people describe the condition of a person whom they have not met for a longer period of time, they called him as 'yemeskel wof.'
Meskel also marks as a tourist season in Ethiopia. Thousands of tourists from many countries converge on Ethiopia to enjoy the Meskel ceremonies.
They particularly enjoy celebrating Meskel in Addis Ababa at Meskel Square and in tourist attraction areas in the northern part of the country known as 'The historical route' among tourists and travel agencies catering to tourism in the country.
Meskel is a season of reunion of family members here in Ethiopia and in the Diaspora. It creates a spirit of reconciliation and resolving conflicts in an amicable manner. Moreover, Meskel is celebrated on the occasion in which school children and university and college students get ready for the next academic year. In the same way, the administrators and managers of the institutes of higher learning in the country prepare for accepting new students.
Government ministries, authorities, commissions and agencies are already busy in embarking on the implementation of their planned activities on time and with the budget allotted for them by the government.
As we are at the middle of the second Growth and Transformation Plan year (GTP-II), government institutions need to build up on their achievements from the previous year, rectify their shortfalls and scale up their activities to be up to the expectation from the peoples and government of Ethiopia.
The country is conducting a protracted battle against corruption and corrupt officials who are out to deplete public coffers and siphon them to their own purses. This year, the struggle is expected to take a broader scope which is a major means of promoting good governance and roll back tendencies in rent seeking.
The current year is declared by the government as another year of national resurgence and this is possible when government institutions, among other organizations are able to mobilize their human and material resources towards effective implementation of planned activities. The prevalence of a sprite of achievement among all public servants is a precondition for their preparedness to do their best in the New Year.
The nation has achieved a lot over the previous year. Expansion programs in the areas of aviation, infrastructural envelopment, education and health coverage brought about promising results which further accelerated the development pace of the nation.
A lot has been done in the education sector. Eleven more universities are prepared to take in more students. More than 100,000 students have graduated from both public and private universities in the country. As new students are joining the older and new universities, it is incumbent upon the leadership of these universities to create a student friendly academic atmosphere, free from undesirable practices of using narcotic products and possible vulnerability to HIV virus.
Local administrative bodies need to ensure that the environments of universities are free from undesirable recreational centers that would distract students from their academic activities. Academic plagiarism and manipulation of academic credentials which tarnish the reputation of these universities need to be avoided in the current academic year.
Meskel is a season of peace, rapprochement, peaceful coexistence and tolerance. The recent conflicts that flared up in the border areas of Oromia and Ethiopia Somali states are undoubtedly contradict with the cardinal values of Meskel. National cultural celebrations like Ereecha which is also marked in this month were regrettably disrupted last year resulting in loss of life and property. This year's celebration of all types of cultural and religious celebrations cannot afford to be disrupted.
The year is also expected to show marked improvements in quality management in the construction sector which is already playing an important role in the GDP of the nation. This is a critical area in ensuring construction standards and quality assurance in the sector.
As Ethiopia celebrates Meskel, there is a need for assessment of the positive results gained from the registration of the celebrations, for instance in the areas of tourism inflow, in luring international researchers on cultural research programs and conference tourism.
There is an overall national consensus and optimism on wishing to see Ethiopia develop to higher level of economic and social development but this should be seen practically on the ground.
Nevertheless, Meskel is a season of forgiveness and mutual support with the neighborhood and kith and kin. The cultural values of Meskel as a source of hope and good will have a cross cutting implications for the development of unity in diversity among all Ethiopians. This unique festival is celebrated among all followers of the Christian faith irrespective of ethnic difference or cultural diversity.
For instance, among the Guraghe nationality, paying visits to loved ones and relatives is almost a personal cultural obligation that should be fulfilled at any cost.
At the national level, Meskel depicts cultural heterogeneity among the peoples of the country and yet an occasion of unity in which due respect and reception is provided for all who gather to celebrate the occasion.
Ethiopia celebrates the Meskel festival next week with a spirit of resurgence and hope and with more solid commitment to ensure peace and prosperity for the country while many people in war torn countries lack their natural rights to peace. Ethiopia is peaceful and Meskel is a symbol of peace and stability in the country.