Festivals and Events
Most festivals in Ethiopia are religious – either Orthodox Christian or Islamic. Feasting or fasting, traditional dance, music, processions, and flowers are common in the celebrations.
Ledet is the Orthodox Christian Christmas, celebrated on January 7th. People may attend all-night church services on the night of the 6th and there may be all-night processions before the 43-day Advent fast is broken. Genna (hockey) and gugs (similar to polo) are played in some regions, along with horse racing.
Timket, on the 19th, marks Epiphany, and it is one of Ethiopia’s most important events. Replicas of the Ark of the Covenant, known as tabots, are blessed before being paraded back to the church, accompanied by song and dance, feasting, incense, and the sound of bells.
Fasika is the Orthodox Christian Easter. Following a service ending at around 3am on Easter Sunday, families mark the end of the 55-day vegan fast with a meal of chicken or lamb.
Eid-Al-Fitr falls some time during the last two weeks of August. This Islamic holiday lasts for three days and marks the end of Ramadan with feasts and prayers.
Enkutatash is the Ethiopian New Year. On the 10th of September (New Year’s Eve) there is feasting and celebrating, then on New Year’s Day, houses are decorated with Meskel daisies and a traditional song is sung to the rhythm of drums.
Meskel is on the 27th of September. It celebrates the Finding of the True Cross in the 4th Century and also coincides with the end of the rainy season. Traditional Meskel daisies are tied to a cross, which is then blessed and placed upon a bonfire. There is traditional dancing and singing.
Irecha – Sunday after Meskel. Oromo people travel to the shore of Lake Hora, near Debre Zeyit, to thank their god and to request good fortune, health, and fertility for the coming sowing season. Perfumes and butter are smeared on trunks of ancient fig trees.
Eid-al-Adha is the most important Islamic holiday and commemorates Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son. An animal is slaughtered, and the meat is shared equally between family, neighbors, and the poor. It falls in late October or early November, when Muslim pilgrims have returned from the Hajj.