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This vibrant national holiday has been observed throughout the country for centuries

It has been celebrated by the Ethiopian Christians over 1,600 years. It falls annually between the 3rd and 4th week of the September. The feast commemorates the discovery of the cross, up on which Jesus was crucified; by the Empress Helen, the mother of Constantine the Great.

On the eve of Meskel tall branches are tied together and yellow daisies, popularly called Meskel flowers, are placed at top. During the night these branches are gathered together in front of the compound gates and ignited. This symbolizes the action of Empress Helen who, when no one would show her the holy sepulcher, lit incense and prayed for help. Where the smoke drifted she dug and found three crosses. To one of them, the True Cross, many miracles were attributed.

Before the bonfire, celebration starts in the early afternoon priests in their bright vestments, students, brass, and bands singing a special Meskel song circling the Demera (bonfire).  

Meskel also signifies the physical presence of the true cross at the remote mountain monastery of Gishen Debre Kerbe located in the Wolo region. Arrangement of the cross was kept in a box of Gold. The priests of Gishen still safeguard this treasure along with Tefut, which is handwritten in Geez on beautiful parchment.

During this time of the year flowers bloom on mountains and plains and the meadows are yellow with the brilliant Meskel daisy. Dancing, feasting, merrymaking, bonfires and even gun salutes mark the occasion.