Ethiopian Easter: Fasika


Easter is the most important annual religious feast for the Ethiopian Orthodox Church followers; commemorating Jesus’ resurrected from the dead on the third day after his crucifixion and celebrates after 55 fasting days in which no animal product is eaten. On Easter eve people go to church with candles to celebrate, which are lit during a colorful Easter mass service, which begins at about early midnight Ethiopian time.

After the completion of the mass, people go home to break their feast with the meat of chicken, slaughtered the previous night, accompanied with injera and traditional drinks called tella local Ethiopian Beer or tej, honey win. Like Christmas, Easter is also a day of family reunion, an expression of good wishes with exchange of gifts like lamb, goat or loaf of bread.

In Ethiopia, the main and longstanding religion has been the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church since the times of Frumentius. Ethiopian Easter, or Fasika, takes place in Orthodox Churches throughout the country, and follows the eastern method of calculating Easter (see Computus for details), thus tending to fall after Easter in the Western calendar (some years both fall on the same date). Fasika is a much more important festival than Christmas, since the Death and Resurrection of Jesus is more significant in Orthodox theology than his birth. Jesus’ crucifixion which led to his death on a Friday, according to Orthodox thought was for the purpose of fulfilling the word of God, and led to the conquest of death and Jesus’ resurrection from the tomb after three days, the third day being the Sunday when Ethiopian Easter is celebrated.

Fasika is a climactic celebration. Fasting becomes more intense over the 55-day period of Lent, when no meat or animal products of any kind, including milk and butter, are eaten.Good Friday starts off by church going, and is a day of preparation for the breaking of this long fasting period.

The faithful prostrate themselves in church, bowing down and rising up until they get tired. The main religious service takes place with the Paschal Vigil on Saturday night. It is a somber, sacred occasion with music and dancing until the early hours of the morning. At 3:00 a.m. everyone returns home to break their fast, and a chicken is slaughtered at midnight for the symbolic occasion. In the morning, after a rest, a sheep is slaughtered to start the feasting on Easter Sunday.

In Ethiopian Orthodox Christianity or the Tewahedo faith, it is believed the near-sacrifice of Abraham’s loved son Isaac (Genesis 22), which was a test of faith from God to Abraham, was interrupted by a voice of an angel from the heavens, and the sending of a Lamb for the sacrifice instead. This Old Testament story is said to be a prophetic foreshadowing of God sending his only beloved son for the world as a sacrifice and the fulfilling of Abraham’s promise.

Easter in Ethiopia is a day when people celebrate; there is a release of enjoyment after the long build-up of suffering which has taken place, to represent Christ’s fasting for forty days and forty nights. People often have food and locally brewed alcohol from fresh honey (tej, tella and katikalla).

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