Ethiopia’s Festivals and Celebrations

Ethiopian festivals and Celebrations are great and colorful events, mostly religious, and frequently take place over several days. Important Christian holidays include Meskel, Christmas, Timkat, Kiddus Yohanes and Easter. And other widely celebrated festivals are Irreechaa and Ashenda.

Meskel - Finding of the True Cross September 26th, 27th and 28th)

Meskel is a Beautiful, colorful, and bright are just a few adjectives that come to mind when describing the Meskel Festival, the first big festival of the Ethiopian religious year.

The Meskel Festival is an ancient festival unique to the Christian faithful in Ethiopia and is celebrated annually. Meskel is a highly regarded and timeless festival marks the discovery of the True Cross upon which Jesus Christ was crucified, and as such Christian faithful and tourists converge on the 27th of September every year or on 28th in a leap year to commemorate the celebration of the Meskel festival. The word "Meskel", is from the Ge'ez language that translates to "cross". So, the festival is a celebration of the cross.

Ethiopian Christmas – Genna (7 January)

Ethiopia has its own calendar and time January 7th is the date that Orthodox Christians celebrate Christmas in Ethiopia and People in towns and villages typically dress up in their finest to celebrate.

Orthodox Christians in Ethiopia call Christmas Genna/Gena or Ledet which comes from the word Gennana, meaning "imminent" to express the coming of the Lord and the freeing of mankind from sin. And the holy city of Lalibela is where they’d all like to be on this religious day of celebration.

Timkat - Ethiopian Epiphany (January 19th or 20th)

So few people in the world have heard of Timkat and yet it is one of the most spectacular religious festivals in the world. It is also unique to Ethiopia, where the orthodox Christian festival of Epiphany is celebrated on 19 January, or 20 January during leap years. Timkat, which translates as ‘baptism’, celebrates the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist in the River Jordan. Ethiopians embrace this annually with a mass baptism at different waterfronts or sacred pools around the country, the top spots being Lalibela, Gondar, and Addis Ababa.

Fasika - Easter (May – date varies)

Easter is celebrated after a 55 day period of fasting (Hudade or Abye Tsome). Orthodox Christians do not eat meat or dairy products for the entire 55 days. Vegetarian meals such as lentils, ground split peas, grains, fruit, and varieties of vegetable stew accompanied by injera and/or bread are all that is eaten duirng these days. The first meal of the day is taken after 3 PM during the fasting days, except Saturdays and Sundays, where a meal is allowed after the morning service.