For many people religion provides a sense of belonging, a reason to dance and sing or even light a ship on fire. That’s where these eight festivals come in. Their traditional celebrations create a once-in-a-lifetime event that encourage tourists to join in on the action. Whether you’re captivated by the vibrancy that encompasses these eight festivals or the passion of the believers, you’ll have to admit that they make for one great show.
The day is Sept. 26, which marks the first day of the Meskel Festival, with bonfires set throughout the villages of Ethiopia. However, many of the country’s inhabitants migrate to Meskel Square, where a huge fire just beneath a a cross glistens amid a crowd of dancers and singers who also seem hypnotized by the intensity of the flame. This two-day orthodox celebration takes place in honor of Queen Helena (mother of Constantine the Great) for finding the holy cross on which Christ was crucified. In the midst of celebrating the heroic queen, the participants anxiously hope that the rain will come and extinguish the bonfires, signifying a prosperous year ahead.
The following day, long after the fires have simmered into black ash, calls for spending time with family while eating and drinking, but abstaining from meat. Many worshipers are also seen sporting crosses on their foreheads made from the ashes of the blaze.
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