Ethiopia owns a number of impressive and awe-inspiring cultural and religious festivals that were inscribed on the list of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. year. These unique street festivals include Meskel (The Finding of the True Cross), Irreechaa the Thanksgiving Day of the Oromo people, Timket (Epiphany) and Fichee-Chambalaalla, a New Year festival celebrated among the Sidama people.
Last week, Meskerem 17, 2013 (September 27), the followers of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church celebrated Demera and Meskel across the country. And just after a week from Meskel, that is Meskerem 24, (October 4) Irreechaa will be celebrated warmly among the Oromo people.
In fact, this year's Demera festival (the burning of bonfire at Meskel Square in the capital) was not marked in a manner it had been celebrated for centuries with large gatherings due to the occurrence of coronavirus pandemic. Rather, it was marked with a limited number of people, not more than 5,000 attendants to prevent the spread of the pandemic.
However, tourists who came to the country and attend the festival could not fail to express their excitements and feelings about the distinctiveness of the fiesta.
Farid Khalaf is from Lebanon. He told The Ethiopian Herald that he read about Ethiopian Meskel festival from books ever-since his childhood. The performances are awe-inspiring, he said.
"As the celebration is going in line with COVID-19 precautionary measures and the measures are prudently enforced by the organizers, I found my visit so rewarding."
This glorious and magnificent celebration has to be seen by the entire people especially, Christians who love such cultural and religious events. Meskel festivity should be well preserved, he emphasized.
The Finding of the True Cross is an important event among the followers of the religion and the festival here is marked with stunning and tantalizing events. The Ethiopian Orthodox church is one of the original churches for Christianity; and Meskel celebration should be preserved persistently, he opined.
The other tourist, Mikaela Panagiotopoulou is from Greece. According to her, she first heard about the celebration from her father who had been to the celebration back in the day.
She came from Greece all the way to Ethiopia to witness the event and experience the celebration. She was happy that the occasion had been well organized in a way that could prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Milnaela Panagio Fopoaloa, 23, also came from Greek. She praised the peaceful coexistence of Ethiopians Christians which the event symbolizes peace for not only followers of Ethiopian Orthodox Church, but all Ethiopians and the rest of the world.
"I have never experienced such colorful festival," she added excitedly.
Spyros Panagiotopoulou, Mikaela's father on his part said that he first heard about Meskel celebration form his friend who lived in Ethiopia. And he came to celebrate the festival for the second time.
"The liturgical performances at the occasion are heartwarming."
He also appreciated the people of Ethiopia for their hospitality, their customs and traditions which compel him to visit the country time and again.
While talking about the pandemic, he said that the event took place by giving utmost priority to the health measures; and he has found his tour safe and adorable.
The celebration, choirs, chants of Psalms of David and the Woreb by the priests and deacons have made the festivity so unique and tantalizing, he said.
Meskel reflects the authentic culture and tradition of the nation.
Diongsia Komioti, a Greece travel writer, told the Ethiopian News Agency that Meskel is becoming one of the greatest ritual holidays for many travelers due to the distinct feature of the celebration and the values of the diverse people of Ethiopia.
"I am very exhilarated to come here and see the unity, peace and love among Christians celebrating Meskel. I love all the plays of the clergies and the ceremony," Komioti said.
Mentioning that Meskel ceremony is a popular intangible heritage of Ethiopia that was inscribed by UNESCO's Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity list, she said that strengthening preservation and use the celebration in the most original way would enable to attract tremendous visitors from across the globe.
"I advise Ethiopia and its people to continue celebrating the Meskel festival in its most original way as it is a world cultural heritage and has become an event of mounting tourist attraction," she remarked.
Despite COVID-19 pandemic has decreased the number of foreign tourists and people who attend the Demera (procession) this year, Meskel will continue as destination of tourists after the pandemic halted.
As Meskel is one of the best tourist luring ritual events in Ethiopia, the carnival is an occasion to generate foreign currency from thousands of tourists who come from Europe, USA and Asia as well from many African countries.