Ethiopian Christians celebrate Demera, the discovery of Jesus’ cross

September 27, 2012

By Tinishu Solomon

Millions of Ethiopian Orthodox church members on Wednesday celebrated the  Demera, the eve of the discovery of the cross on which Jesus Christ is believed  to have been crucified.

Celebrations began in the afternoon with tens of thousands of followers  gathering at Meskel Square to celebrate the holy day, together with hundreds of  pilgrims, tourists and foreign diplomats.

In Addis Ababa, all roads leading to the city’s famous Meskel Square were  closed for the day to avoid traffic jams.

Demera, the eve of the discovery of the cross, one of the main religious  ceremonies of Ethiopia’s most dominant religion, is celebrated colorfully  throughout the country.

More than 100,000 people, including hundreds of priests and deacons  attired in Ethiopia’s traditional plain white clothes, gathered to mark the day  with a grand bonfire ceremony, lit by the leader of the Orthodox  Church.

Demera, also known as Meskel Festival, is also celebrated in remembrance of  Empress Helena, who according to tradition was led to the cross after smoke from  incense she was burning during her prayers drifted towards the direction of  three buried crosses, one of which was the True Cross on which Jesus Christ was  crucified. She gave pieces of the True Cross to all churches, including the  Ethiopian Church, with parts of it said to be in Israel.

The ancient festival, dating back 1,600 years, is celebrated with yellow  Meskel daisies placed on top of huge bonfires as priests, carrying silver Coptic  crosses and flaming torches, dance with their followers around the fires singing  and chanting.

This year, however, marked the first time in 21 years when the celebration  was observed in the absence of the late Patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox  Church, Abune Paulos who died in August.

The celebration also marks the end of Ethiopia’s three month long rainy  season. The Horn of Africa country uses its own calendar, which has 13 months,  or Pagume. Like a leap year, Pagume has either 5 or 6 days depending on the  season.

According to Ethiopian tradition, the Meskel cross was reburied on the  mountain of Gishen Mariam monastery in Wollo region after a powerful light  emanating from it stripped naked anyone who approached.

The monastery of Gishen Mariam, one of the country’s main tourist  attractions, has records of the story of the True Cross of Christ and how it was  acquired.

The Ethiopian Orthodox Church has more than 50,000 churches and 1,200  monasteries with about 50,000 monks and nuns for an estimated 40 million plus  orthodox Christians, about half of the country’s total population.

Ethiopia is lobbying that the Meskel Festival be granted UNESCO World  Heritage status.

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Caribbean Weddings

September 20, 2012

Few spots in the world are more beautiful than tropical islands, and Caribbean wedding vendors are well aware that their magical locales are perfect for memorable weddings.  When you’re planning the perfect wedding, it’s wise to consider the Caribbean.  Wedding vendors know that the idyllic combination of warm blue waters, sparkling white beaches, and endless days of sunny weather make for a wedding experience that is unforgettable.  The happy couple as well as their lucky guests are sure to enjoy all that this paradise has to offer.  The Caribbean is a collection of islands tucked off the eastern side of both North and South America.  Resorts, hotels, vacation rentals and private villas are all available for your wedding and with the bounty of the sea at hand as well as the nearby large cities on the mainlands it’s easy to have fresh, delicious food and flowers for your event no matter which island you choose.   Caribbean wedding services don’t stop at food and flowers though.  There are so many different ways that these skilled professionals can make your day special, from helicoptering your guests in to remote islands for a private wedding on the beach to providing accommodations for all your guests with ocean views.  Be sure to check out the wedding options that abound here in the Caribbean.

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The city of Addis Ababa (New flower)-Ethiopia

September 13, 2012

The name of this sprawling capital city means “New Flower.” Founded by Emperor Menelik in 1887 and with a population of about 4 million, Addis Ababa is Africa’s diplomatic capital with the headquarters for the Organization of African Unity located here. Impressive monuments of colonial architecture are scattered among stretches of sun-bleached shacks. Drive through “Mercato” the largest open market on the continent. Make interesting stops that include the National Museum, the Ethnological Museum and the Ba’ata Church known as Menelik Mausoleum. Enjoy souvenir shopping and visits to special art galleries. Yama Ethiopia Tours patronizes local charities providing guests with opportunities to make purchases that support them. Hotel accommodations range from tourist class to luxury collections and a variety of restaurants serve delectable dishes from around the world including, of course, Ethiopia.
Highlights of the most interesting museums and monuments in the capital of Ethiopia are:
The National Museum which is one of the best museums of East Africa with a large collection of archeological excavations, historical objects of Ethiopian art, and important fossils including Lucy, one of the first humans. The Ethnographic Museum has a wonderful exhibition of the culture, houses, cloth, objects and traditions of the many Ethiopian ethnic groups. On the second floor you can see an impressive exhibition of traditional musical instruments and religious art from 13th – 20th century.
The Asni gallery houses works of art from modern Ethiopian artists.
The Churches of Kiddist Maryam (1911), Kidane Mehret (YEAR) and Kiddist Selassie (Holy Trinity, 1933) are within walking distance of each other and they have beautiful wall paintings and Church treasures. They are also of historical value having served as the mausoleums of Emperor Menelik II and Haile Selassie and their wives.
The Giorgis cathedral (1905) is famous for its wall paintings from the famous Ethiopian artist Afewerk Tekle. It also has a fine museum.
In the Entoto Mountains you can enjoy the panoramic view over Addis Abeba, enjoy nature and visit the Entoto Maryam Church which is the oldest Church of Addis Abeba (YEAR), founded by Emperor Menelik II. Next to the Church is the Emperor Menelik and Empress Taitu Memorial Museum.
The national museum also contains some wonderful artifacts dating to the south Arabian period of the so-called pre-Axumite civilization of Tigrai. These include a number of large stone statues of seated female figures, thought to have been fertility symbols of a pre-Judaic religion. It is interesting that the figures have plaited hair identical to the style worn by modern Ethiopians (it has been suggested that the mythological Medusa of Ancient Greece was simply a dreadlocked Ethiopian woman). One almost perfectly preserved statue, thought to be about 2,600 years old and unearthed at a site near Yeha, is seated in a 2m-high stone cask adorned with engravings of ibex. Many of the other statues are headless-probably decapitated by early Christians, who converted many pagan temples to churches. Other items include a sphinx from Yeha, once again emphasizing Axumite links with the classical world, a huge range of artifacts from Axum itself, and a cast of one of the Gragn stones from Tiya.
Continuing straight uphill from Siddist Kilo for perhaps 500m, a left turn through a tall gateway leads into the main campus of the University of Addis Ababa and the excellent Museum and Library of the Institute of Ethiopian Studies. Very different to the National Museum, but no less absorbing, this is an exemplary ethnographic museum, housed on the upper floors of a former palace of Haile Selassie, within the green university grounds immediately north of Siddist Kilo. The first floor of the building is dedicated to a wide array of artifacts and daily objects relating to most ethnic groups in Ethiopia, not only the monotheistic highlanders, but also the fascinating animist cultural groups of South Omo and Afar people of the eastern desserts. On the second floor is a new exhibition on Ethiopian musical instruments and visual art through the ages, an impressive selection of Ethiopian crosses, and a unique collection of icons dating back to the middle Ages. Outside the museum building, look out for the displaced ‘head’ of the largest of the Tiya stele in the gardens. On the ground floor of the building, the IES Library maintains one of the world’s most comprehensive collections of books and photocopied articles about Ethiopia; despite the archaic and occasionally frustrating card indexing system, it is an invaluable resource for anybody undertaking research on any aspect of Ethiopian culture and history.

Mercato is the real commercial hub of Addis, a vast grid of roads lined with stalls, kiosks and small shops, where you can buy just about anything you might want, such as: the latest local cassettes; traditional crosses, clothes and other curios; vegetables, spices and pulses; and custom-made silver and gold jewelry. Prices are generally negotiable.

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