March

History of Meskel

The festival of Meskel has been celebrated in the country for over 1,600 years. The word actually means “cross” and the feast commemorates the discovery of the cross upon, which Jesus was crucified, by the Empress Helena, the mother of Constantine the Great. The original event took place on 19 March 326 AD.

Many of the rites observed throughout the festival are said to be directly connected to the legend of Empress Helena. On the eve of Meskel, tall branches are tied together and yellow daisies, popularly called Meskel flowers, are placed at the top. During the night, these branches are gathered together in front of the compound gates and ignited. This symbolizes the actions of the Empress whom, 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.

How meskel is celebrated

During this time of year flowers bloom on the mountains and plains and the meadows are yellow with the brilliant Meskel daisy. Dancing, feasting, merrymaking, bonfires, and even gun salutes mark the occasion. The festival begins by planting a green tree on Meskel Eve in town squares and village marketplaces. Everyone brings a pole topped with Meskel daisies to form the towering pyramid that will soon be a beacon of flame. Torches of eucalyptus twigs called chibo are used to light the bundle of branches called Demera.

When does the celebration take place

The feast is now celebrated on 27th of September. In Addis Ababa celebrations start in the early afternoon. when a huge procession bearing flaming torches approaches Meskel Square from various directions. The marchers include priests in their brightly hued vestments, students, brass bands, contingents of the armed forces, and bedecked floats carrying huge lit crosses. They circle the Demera and fling their torches upon it, while singing a special Meskel song. Thousands gather at the square to join in and welcome the season of flowers and golden sunshine called Tseday. As evening darkens, the flames glow brighter. It is not until dawn that the burning pyramid consumes itself and the big tree at the center finally falls. During the celebration, each house will be stocked with tella (the local beer), and strangers are welcome.

                                               The Hell on Earth

volcano is a large basaltic shield volcano in the Erta Ale volcanic range in the central northern Danakil depression.
It is famed for its persistent lava lake which has been active during most of the past decades since it was first discovered in the 1960s.
It is only 613 m high, but as typical for a shield volcano has a very gentle slopes and a large 40 km diameter base. The summit is truncated by a complex, elongated 1700 x 600 m wide caldera which contains vast lava flows and several larger and smaller pit craters, most notably the active north and south crater, which contains the lava lake at present.
It is one of the main attractions of the Danakil, and had became a popular tour destination in recent years. Unfortunately, the deadly attack on 4 January 2012 against tourists and scientists camped on the crater rim, in which several were killed. It illustrates that the area is politically unstable and can be subject to terrorist attacks. Anyone visiting the volcano should be aware of this.

Background:

It is one of the few volcanoes on the world that have an almost persistent lava lake. It is an isolated basaltic shield volcano, 50 km wide, rising more than 600 m from below sea level in the barren Danakil depression.
The volcano contains a 0.7 x 1.6 km elliptical summit crater with several steep-sided pit craters, one of them containing a lava lake. Another larger 1.8 x 3.1 km wide depression, elongated parallel to the trend of the Erta Ale range is located to the SE of the summit and is bounded by curvilinear fault scarps on the SE side. Fresh-looking basaltic lava flows from these fissures have poured into the caldera and locally overflowed its rim. The summit caldera is renowned for one, or sometimes two long-term lava lakes that have been active since at least 1967, or possibly since 1906. Recent fissure eruptions have occurred on the northern flank of Erta Ale.

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